Emma Mahony talks about how spiritual beliefs can help greatly in managing ADHD with journalist Clare Catford, ADHDer and presenter of many BBC radio programmes on faith.
Historically steeped in the work of the Mutoid Waste Company, the artist Giles Walker has produced something important and visionary in his jaw-dropping work “Monster”. After two years beating waste metal and sewing scrap material onto animatronic mannequins in his Brixton workshop, this hauntingly immersive experience is both disturbing and beautiful. The moving characters spout dialogues (sound managed by Orbital) that reveals the very worst about the health of this nation. Against the backdrop of these busy dialogues, comes the traffic noise and ambulance sirens of East London outside, making this the unholiest of galleries.
The work is utterly British, from the Silver Cross pram revealing the baby smoking (remember that image on all fag packets?) to the wimples of the war-time nurses pushing them, and the hundreds of books littering the floor, there is no mistaking which nation you are in. We are taking a look under a filthy blanket in the morgue. In the two-year period it took him to produce this immersive sculptural experience, he had no idea that we were going to be plunged into a pandemic at the end, but the extreme sickness is foretold within the body of this work, from the continual coughing to the lines of red string which are suspended between the characters – representing a virus spreading, before Covid had landed.
Now the cavernous, dark, disused Stable Block in the centre of a bustling Spitalfields, where the exhibition takes place, through a door in a boarded up wall – covered in graffiti –provides the perfect backdrop for this dystopian Narnia. It is a space to face your fears in, fears about the establishment, about cruelty in education, fears about treatment in this country of refugees, disability, paedophilia in the British monarchy, the deification of celebrity in Jimmy Saville, domestic abuse in countless households, gaslighting, and above it all – Religion. the subversion of Christ on a giant wooden cross, who comes alive at the end of the piece to lean forward and spout nonsensical lines about “Coca Cola” continues to be a symbol of hope, despite his bastardised appearance.
The guardians of this horror show are the Three Blind Mice who greet you at the start, tail-less naturally – towering some thirty feet over the cowering audience with their giant penises and blindfolded eyes. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. As you enter, they are a warning for what is to come, banging an empty bucket on the floor – no water to spill here, the coffers are empty. They start the show by forcing your mouth open in disbelief, as if you had walked onto the set of Mad Max – and there is no way out.
As the performance continues, you are taken from the giant to the miniscule as you become drawn into the stories of burning dolls houses, little vignettes of the tiny skeletons of birds’ heads on people, a throwback to Walker’s exhibition The Last Supper in 2017. Except this time we are peeking behind the closed doors of British substandard social housing. These creepy creatures are hanging with a rope around a neck, despair in tiny bottles of spilled wine and blood on the floor.
And then from the middle of all this horror, in front of the cross, appears a child singing the most beautiful of arias, as if you are suddenly in church. Birds’ wings in discarded shoes flap gently up and down as your assaulted senses are lifted up by this eerie child, appearing from a box with a hopeful song, utterly at odds with so much evil.
The result is a disturbing look under the covers of our collective psyche, the evil that lurks often in the corridors of power, whatever smiley face we choose to put on in life. For the hour given over to the exhibition, we are invited to confront it – to accept that it lurks within us, that we are all connected by this red string of the virus – however much we choose to shut ourselves away or put on a brave face. It can’t be ignored.
The Zen Buddhist master Thich Nhat Than wrote: “Do not turn yourself into a battlefield with good fighting against evil. Both sides belong to you, the good and the evil. Evil can be transformed into good, and vice versa”. Giles Walker’s utterly impressive “Monster” provokes us into accepting this truth. What we choose to do with it now, is up to us.
Giles Walker “Monster” from 3-13 December at 106 Commercial St, Spitalfields London E1 6LZ
Website: www.benoakleygallery.com . Images and video below by Kelvin O’Mard.
ADDISS – the ADHD Information Service is one of the best places to head, for any parents or adults who are struggling with problems around diagnosis or children with ADHD. This year they are celebrating their 25th anniversary and the great Andrea Bilbow OBE – who runs the organisation – is still organising events despite Covid derailing their plans for a packed programme. I am pleased to join her tomorrow to talk about Women and ADHD on Zoom – so come and join us here if you want to learn more here. Tickets are free here.
Titled “Fifty years of unanswered questions” – and under the section of “Real Life” Fiona Kinloch wrote an interview which came at diagnosis from the perspective of having a child with ADHD. I believe that this is how many women finally come round to the idea of having the disorder, otherwise – they just learn to cover up many of the struggles that they face throughout their life, coping with crises as they arise, and unnecessarily working twice as hard as others just to keep on top of their life. See the interview here
All too often the same old clichés are trotted out by the media around ADHD so I was pleased to share this in Happiful magazine adapted from The UK information service ADDISS and included at the back of my book. It was the theme of 2019 ADHD awareness month
Unlike the tv interview on Channel 4 – there was a challenging exchange with outgoing BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour presenter Jane Garvey. When the interviewer offers “I don’t want to be cynical but… ” you know you are not in for an easy ride.
However, anyone with ADHD has heard the arguments and dismissal of ADHD as a genuine mental health issue before, and we are not about to roll over and take the clichés lying down, especially about it being a “gift to big Pharma…” .
I hope the email that presenter Jane Garvey read out from a listener at the end of the interview, which starts at 22 minutes and 24 seconds in, put its importance into context. If people become hermits because they become overwhelmed, they deserve to be valued – not dismissed.
Bella Magazine chose to highlight ADHD in its magazine dated 13 October, by lifting content from the book and adding a “symptom checker”. I liked the photo of the woman with a post-it note on her head. What that had to do with the price of eggs I am not sure – but it looked good.
The piece I wrote for the Daily Telegraph included some detail from my book that has just been published Better Late Than Never about how I had to produce my school reports for my adult ADHD diagnosis. The headline “My messiness exasperated my teachers” was what captured the editors’ interest in this complex disorder.
I hope to add another piece from the Daily Telegraph after an interview with one of their newly diagnosed journalists – who wants to talk to me about sharing common symptoms. Watch this space…