Social prescription and mental health; my participation requires no permission.

Click to hear Vivian talk you through her presentation
Performing DNA; social prescription and mental health is a new project that has been commissioned by the Yard Theatre, London, as part of NOW 2020.

The project stems from my most recent performance with clay, ‘Uro’, a 6-hour performance commissioned by SPILL Festival of Performance Art and based on the ideas of dying, rebirth, depression and clay as a material representation of degeneration and regeneration. Working with the ideas derived from the performance ‘Uro’, I have been exploring the boundaries of health and nutrition, dealing with depression, I used the process of juicing vegetables and fruits, to create rituals that enabled me to work through the difficulties I was experiencing. Through this, exploring notions of social prescription and health; the proposition of self-care as a socially performed medication

Vivian Chinasa Ezugha, Uro, a SPILL Commission at SPILL Festival 2018,
photo by Guido Mencari

My research questions are:

  • How does the food we eat influence our everyday living and our wellbeing?
  • What function does food have on our care system (the inner body)?
  • How do we view our bodies in relation to wider issues surrounding health and wellbeing in the UK today?
  • What types of documentation can be derived from engaging the art and science?
Performing DNA; photo: Manuel Vason, ] performance s p a c e [, Salvage Festival 2019

I ran a workshop at The Market Gallery in Glasgow in October this year. The workshop was an opportunity to explore what social prescription would look like as performance provocations:

This was my provocation; Get the ball to the goal without using your feet. The performers had their legs tied together to prevent them from using their feet.

Social prescription, prescribing an understanding developed through shared experience. Prescribing a moment for stillness, for breathing and being with one’s self. Taking a break to reevaluate…… I am overwhelmed with emotion.

I stopped to realise where I am in my own body and mind. I stood in a space with a community of bodies, searching for my own meaning.

I am emotional…. The Market, the space that held our voices, our desires.

We fasted together, came together, moved together, juiced together and ate together. The frameworks of the space became the frameworks for our experience; though and I’m sure, different and diverse in their own way, experiences shared together is the foundation for building connectivity.

I set out with an understanding that I am an artist working with others to figure something out, but I came away with courage that it is ok to ask people to rest, to take it easy and drink fresh juices and still be creative.

My application for grants to run this project was rejected, I came with a baggage of pain and I found out that my participation requires no permission.

3 comments on “Social prescription and mental health; my participation requires no permission.”

  1. Hi Vivian, I absolutely love what you ‘found out’ through this process! The not needing permission bit. Your addition to the symposium worked really well with the themes arising, “being yourself”, “telling your own story” (not being spoken for), difference (of bodies, minds, etc), and connectivity was definitely up!

    Food – what have you been exploring? For me, I love my food, it’s such a source of pleasure and yet it is also an ongoing battle as stress, and some of the unhealthy cultural patterns we have to navigate these days really effect my ability to prepare, enjoy, and think about food! Ugh! It’s like my number one grief some days!

    So I’m very interested in your first 3 questions.

  2. Dear Maija,
    Thank you for your comment, I’ve been focusing on fasting and the breaking of the fast through juicing of vegetables and fruits. Focusing on the use of ginger as a natural pain killer to understand how my body responds to vegetation. Depression can effect us in many ways, for many and certainly for me the desire to eat disappears so I use juicing to keep my body whole and fasting to rid myself of emotional baggage. Social prescription ascribes to the processes we can take to understand the source of our feelings in moments of pain. so by this I mean, what are the things you would like to do more of ? Could it be that you want to walk more, drink more water, sleep more, smile and laugh more or just take a break. the prescription is to chose 5 things that you can do more of each day and try your best to do it. in terms of performance, I use methods of walking in your body ( walking how you feel today in the moment) with percentages of energy to start the conversation about what does it mean to be in this body today. Then breaking it down I start to explore what rest is; how long does it take to actually rest and how does one perform rest. These questions are conceptual but if explored properly can open up a lot more than what is expected. Hope this answers your question.
    best wishes

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