A few years ago I was privileged to work with the UK Stroke Association in a fundraising capacity, highlighting the causes and measures to reduce the risk of stroke. Anyone can have a stroke, although there are some things that make you more at risk than others. It’s important to know what the risk factors are and do what you can to reduce your risk. For further information in the UK please visit https://www.stroke.org.uk or, in the US, http://www.strokeassociation.org
During this time I was honoured to meet the truly inspirational artist Mark Ware. Mark is a Fulbright Scholar and an Honorary Research Fellow at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School. During 1996 Mark had a severe stroke, an event that suddenly and abruptly altered every aspect of his life. Since then, his artwork has become increasingly concerned with how his subjective experience has been altered by the changes in mind and body due to stroke.
Mark is now collaborating with neuroscientist Professor Hugo Critchley and his team at the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, Brighton on The Wavelength project. The Wavelength Project will investigate and artistically interpret how we respond to natural versus, artificial light and sound. The science activities will inform the development and creation of a series of artistic outcomes, including original music compositions, multimedia performances, sound and light installations, creative workshops and creative field research activities. I was intrigued to know more about the project and Mark’s career to date so I was most please when he agreed to be interviewed.
What inspired you to become an artist?
Art encourages us to observe and express how we interact with the amazing world we live in. For me art soon became a form of ‘life note-taking’, forcing me to connect with, and appreciate, the here and now.
What’s your favourite medium and why?
My art is multimedia and includes various combinations of sculpture, photography, video, sound, digital imagery, writing, performance and light. I view my work as a la carte art where I am able to call upon whatever disciplines are required on any particular project. This allows me flexibility in terms of scale, complexity and context for the work.
Has your appreciation of art and its importance changed since having your stroke?
Yes. My stroke was severe and badly affected my cognitive and physical abilities. Although I didn’t welcome my stroke, from an artistic point of view it was fascinating because it gave me wonderful insights into the perceptual process. As a result, all of my post-stroke art is touched by my disability in some way. Art is so important to me now because it allows me to explore and express my altered subjective experiences caused by changes in mind and body due to my brain injury.
Do you feel society undervalues art as a therapeutic medium particularly with regards to neurological health and wellbeing?
Yes! Art is about what it is to be human and has the power to reach out and affect people on both conscious and subconscious levels. When I look back at myself immediately following my stroke in 1996, I remember two things: The determination to survive a life-threatening event and the desire to create art. Given my circumstances at the time, it is significant (to me) that the need to create art was as important as the need for life. Art is within us all and when produced with honesty, it can have a profound affect on the people who experience it.
What is the wavelength project?
The wavelength project is an extremely ambitious activity and will aim to seek answers to profound questions such as why is art important, and why do we create it?
Why are we drawn to the natural environment, marvelling at brilliantly coloured sunsets, for example? What impact do art and nature have upon health and wellbeing?
The project is an art/science collaboration between me and neuroscientist Professor Hugo Critchley and colleagues at the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, University of Sussex. With contributions from Professor Critchley and the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, I will investigate how we respond to art and nature, focusing on differences between natural versus man made sounds and light.
What are its objectives and how do you see the project growing or gaining influence?
The project’s scientific investigations will inform the development and creation of a series of artistic outcomes, including original music compositions, multimedia performances, sound and light installations, creative workshops and field research activities.
Most people believe that the natural environment is good for us in terms of wellbeing and health. The wavelength project is seeking to provide scientific evidence to assess this belief, with artistic outcomes influenced by the results. In the long term, we aim to deliver results that may be of benefit to many people, including those who have experienced brain injury or suffer from disorders of consciousness.
If, as most of us believe, exposure to the natural environment is found to be beneficial to our conscious experience, this will support initiatives to protect, enhance and restore wildlife and our natural resources, on land and at sea. A vitally important outcome of the wavelength project will be to raise awareness of this need. In recognition of this important direction, Kent Wildlife Trust has also partnered with the project. The Trust will advise the wavelength project team on all issues concerning the natural environment and will collaborate on a variety of creative activities.
The artistic content of the wavelength project is supported by Arts Council England.