New exhibition to explore mental health perspectives at Science Gallery Melbourne

Image of a lady looking to the virtual mirror.
Interactive artwork Mirror Ritual by Nina Rajcic and SensiLab augments a mirror with AI to foster both literal and metaphoric reflection. Image: Jon McCormack

Opening on 15 June, MENTAL: Head Inside, the first exhibition to be presented at Science Gallery Melbourne’s new purpose-built gallery, will reflect a range of different perspectives on mental health.

In the exhibition, science, technology and art come together to showcase stories and experiences from across the mental health spectrum.

It will feature over twenty projects from local and international artists and research collaborators, each challenging societal stereotypes surrounding mental health and reflecting different ways of being, surviving and connecting in the world.

The fourth exhibition to be created by Science Gallery Melbourne, MENTAL: Head Inside has been curated collaboratively with young people, for young people, and will be the first to be launched in the gallery located within the University of Melbourne's new innovation precinct Melbourne Connect.

Science Gallery Melbourne is the first and only Australian node in the internationally acclaimed Science Gallery Network, a series of museums embedded in universities around the world, with a proven success at engaging 15-25 year olds in STEM subjects and pathways, the key being the presentation of immersive, experimental and experiential exhibitions that blend scientific theory and new technologies with conceptual themes and creativity.

University of Melbourne’s Museums and Collections Director Rose Hiscock said she was pleased to present an exhibition on mental health as the inaugural program for the new gallery.

“The Science Gallery model focuses on topics that are especially relevant to young people. The content and topic for MENTAL came from ongoing conversations with young people. We know that almost half of us will directly experience challenges to our mental health at some stage in our lives, and young people are an especially affected group,” Ms Hiscock said.

The interactive exhibition, curated by Science Gallery Melbourne’s Head of Curatorial Tilly Boleyn with Creative Director Dr Ryan Jefferies, and a team of young people, includes:

  • Selfcare_4EVA, a new performative workset within afake bedroom in the Science Gallery street-level windows. Melbourne-based artists Mary Angley and Caithlin O’Loghlen will spend seven days on view, pursuing the impossible goal of becoming the most famous wellness influencers on the internet. Each day they will create an increasing amount of content, joined by a series of guests including self-care enthusiasts and mental health professionals, working to uncover what goes into creating an image of perfect wellness, and exploring whether the industry helps or hinders mental health.  Their progress can be viewed live in the gallery and online.
  • Wheel is a collaboration between renowned artist Hiromi Tango and Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health researcher Dr Emma Burrows that explores the effect of vibrant colour, playful spaces and exercise on mood, and the influence of positive social reward on our exercise commitment. The project has been realised in collaboration with Human Computer Interaction researcher Dr Tilman Dingler.
  • Respite Space, a new project by Wemba Wemba and Gunditjmara artist Rosie Kalina, who will create a space within the exhibition designed for rest and reflection. This space will emphasise the importance of respite in the colony, inviting visitors to consider the impact racism and continued colonisation has on the mental health of Aboriginal people.
  • The Aesthetics of Being Disappeared, a multi-media project from Wednesday Kim. Born in South Korea and now based in the US, Kim’s work is informed by the artist’s personal experiences with therapy, human psychology and the absurdity of information-saturated contemporary life.
  • Distorted Constellations by UK artist Nwando Ebizie, an immersive sensory environment drawing on the rare neurological syndrome Visual Snow, which causes a person to experience an augmented reality of auras, glowing lines, depression and depersonalisation. The work defies the idea of a 'normal' brain in favour of understanding reality as a subjective experience within a wider spectrum. Research conducted in collaboration with Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences researchers Dr Simon Cropper and Dr Chris Groot, will investigate visitors' perceptions of the experience and attitudes in relation to the work.
  • Mirror Ritual, by Nina Rajcic and SensiLab, an interactive artwork that appropriates an everyday object – a mirror – augmenting it with artificial intelligence (AI) to foster both literal and metaphoric reflection. Through AI generated poetry, the mirror ‘speaks’ to the viewer, each poem tailored to their machine-perceived emotional state.

Head of Curatorial at Science Gallery Melbourne Tilly Boleyn  said  MENTAL: Head Inside recognises that everyone reacts to the world differently, according to their own history, perception, biogenetic make-up and emotional state.

“The exhibition acknowledges that not all mental health journeys are the same. It’s not a show about cures or treatment, although there might be things in there that will help.  This is an inclusive exhibition that explores many different ways of being, surviving and connecting in 2021,” Ms Boleyn said.

“Lived experience was central to the development of the exhibition and people with lived experience were part of the advisory group, curatorial panel, the artists, collaborators and researchers in the show.”

Creative Director at Science Gallery Melbourne Dr Ryan Jefferies said health experts from the University of Melbourne and other universities also played a crucial role in developing this exhibition.

“Working with leading academics like Professor Sarah J Wilson, psychologist and Pro Vice-Chancellor (Student Life), Cath Roper at the Centre for Psychiatric Nursing at the University of Melbourne, and Professor Jayashri Kulkarni, Professor of Psychiatry, Monash University, has pushed us in being bolder and braver with this challenging theme,” Dr Jefferies said.

The exhibition season will include a series of workshops, performances, artist talks, virtual interactive sessions, parties, panel discussions, conversations and addresses. Event collaborators include renowned artist Heidi Everett whose work will explore diverse lived experience perspectives of a public psychiatric ward and Catherine Simmonds OAM will develop the lived experience of international students into dynamic theatrical storytelling, managed by Feifei Liao, once herself an international student.

Support is available at Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 and Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Science Gallery Melbourne is part of the Global Science Network pioneered by Trinity College Dublin.

More information on Science Gallery Melbourne and Melbourne Connect is available here.