Lynn Brown

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I use a blog rather than a sketchbook, here are some of my entries;

Agoraphobia definition

noun -an abnormal fear of being in crowds, public places, or open areas, sometimes accompanied by anxiety attacks.

Agoraphobia is a form of anxiety disorder. Agoraphobia is a fear of being somewhere that it may be difficult to get out of quickly. People tend to fear public places like, the shopping mall, sporting events, elevators.
 
Agoraphobia is often misunderstood as a phobia of leaving home. However, this is not quite accurate. Agoraphobia is an intense and irrational fear of being trapped in a situation where escape would be difficult or embarrassing. Agoraphobia is a progressive condition and may eventually lead to a fear of leaving the house.
Agoraphobia generally appears in clusters of activities. Common clusters are public transportation; driving or being in a car; being on a bridge; being in a queue or a crowd; and being away from home. Symptoms are generally lessened when a companion is present.
The fight or flight response is natural and ensures our survival as a species – when hunting if you were exposed on an open plain you were a target for predators, so it is natural to seek safer ground or shelter to avoid danger. However, what is ‘safer’ is learned and this learning can be scewed to give rise to extreme fear even when there is no danger. We are programmed to avoid anything that causes fear, the avoidance leads to changed behaviour and so agoraphobia can develop.
Historically agoraphobia is first described in 1870, but it existed before. A famous sufferer is Sigmund Freud. Agoraphobia is gender biased towards females, (63-95% of sufferers are female), and it affects 6% of the population to some extent. Most people live with the limitations and don’t seek treatment.
Gender and Agoraphobia
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I’m interested in this socialization; agoraphobia and anxiety disorders are increasing in post modernist society, why? What is it about modern life that causes so much fear? Why, at a time when more women have much more freedom to leave the home, are so many not able to?
Here are some examples of childrens literature from the 1960’s, these reinforced the belief that women belong in the home.
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Socialisation theory
‘Clinical researchers have identified familial and interpersonal environments that may contribute to the development and the perpetuation of the psychological and behavioural patterns that make up agoraphobia. There has been considerable speculation about the socialisation experiences of children of agoraphobic parents, although our understanding of the processes involved is largely undetermined. One view holds that agoraphobic parents model caution and fearfulness, and that children develop anxiety by ‘internalizing’ this stance. Finding higher degrees of anxiety among children whose parents display more extensive avoidance behaviour, another account suggests that children of agoraphobic parents who avoid a large number of situations ‘pick up’ the tendency to respond to fear by avoidance. Highlighting the role of perceived control, yet another conceptualisation suggests that interacting with an agoraphobic parent undermines the child’s sense of control, which, coupled with exposure to avoidance behaviour, leads to learned helplessness and the eventual onset of anxiety.’
I can identify with the above as I have some agoraphobic tendencies myself. My mother is very fearful of the outside world, and has very traditional views on a female’s role in society, women should be submissive, ladylike at all times. She worries constantly about what others think of her and is very judgemental of others herself. Appearance takes precedence over everthing else.
My own personal issues stem from an incident in my childhood. I hate being stuck in a cinema or any audience, or in any crowd. I try to sit on the end seat of a row in order to reduce my feelings of anxiety. I know this stems from when I was abused by a man at the age of 9 or 10, in the cinema. I was there with my father and four siblings, and as the eldest child I was seated at one end of the group while my father sat at the other end. The film was Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, and during it a man sat next to me and proceeded to try to physically abuse me. I cried, squirmed away and tried to fight him off, but he persisted, and for some reason I did not stand up and scream, but continued to silently try to push him away. I was a victim, and I believe I reacted that way as my mother worries about what people think of her at all times, and I learned early on never to draw attention to myself. I cried all the way home, and when my mother asked me what was wrong, I told her what had happened. She didn’t believe me and I was admonished for telling stories. My brother who was sat next to me in the cinema thought I had been crying because I was scared of the dragon in the film, as that was what was on screen at the time of the assault, and my mother latched onto that as an explanation for my tears. Now, when I am in a crowd, my anxiety levels rise, and although logically I know I am safe, it is difficult to diffuse the anxiety. I do have some avoidance issues, I try and pre-book cinema seats to ensure I have an aisle seat, and I avoid public transport where I cannot get off easily. It does limit what I do, but at least I have some awareness of why I am like that, and I do work on suppressing the feelings.
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This is the dragon that was on screen at the time. I can remember this section of the film was very loud, and I was aware that I would not be heard even if I shouted out. The dragon’s name is Maleficent, an adjective which means doing evil or harm, which is strangely appropriate.
I found the clip on youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DaVIKlZrn6w
The clip itself does not evoke any bad memories for me, which is odd, as sitting in a cinema does, so the emotions for me are attached to the place, rather than what was happening on screen at the time.
In this video clip, the wicked witch casts a spell and puts a barrier of thorns around the palace where the princess sleeps – what a perfect metaphor for agoraphobia,  something you have to battle through to get outside. I might try and reference this in my images. Actually, I have used thorns in an image before- this is from a few years ago, an image on self harming, my subconcious was obviously at work!
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Boundaries
 The setting of boundaries between what is ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ is a constant negotiation between fear and security, and it fluctuates like a tide, depending on other things in the person’s life at that moment.
Windows and doors represent boundaries but are fixed, so to me aren’t truly representative of agoraphobia in themselves but they do represent home, or safety, in absolute terms. The ‘safe zone’ may extend past those boundaries but the ‘unsafe zone’ never breaches them.
Visual ideas I have had so far- net curtains, the outside is unclear and obscure and the interior is hidden from outsiders view.
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Tidal spaces, blurriness in an image is  technique I could use; this image is by Jonathan Stead. Blurriness suggests panic, especially when it is peripheral, as during a panic attack vision goes from the outside of the visual field first. Maybe a pinhole lens would convey panic?
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Broken windows- maybe use glass in a frame like a window, but with a silver gelatin print, smashed but still readable? This image by Rachel Wallace suggests dissonance but I personally don’t like text in an image.
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I would want an image physically on the broken glass rather than looking through a broken window too. This suggests the outside is perfect, and just the boundary is flawed. I want to suggest the actual scene outside is dangerous and imperfect, as that is how it is perceived. How to do that while keeping the boundary intact. Perhaps I could use an image reflected into a broken mirror, or even rip a print to show a schism in the outdoor scene. Maybe splice together two different versions of a scene, edited differently to show ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ in one image.
Moss
Agoraphobia is all about not moving about freely, being limited in where you go. ‘A rolling stone gathers no moss’ refers to people not settling in one place, the opposite of a agoraphobe’s life. So to me, moss could suggest immobility and lack of freedom, especially if it is on a door, or shoes for example.
Artist Anna Garforth uses moss to create beautiful in situ art installations using moss in text and designs.
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The recipe for moss paint is:
a carton of buttermilk or a can of cheap beer, a teaspoon of sugar, and a handful of moss. Blend the whole lot in a liquidiser until smooth.
Paint your design  and wait for the moss to grow. It works best on a porous surface such as bricks (I wonder if it would work on a pair of leather boots?) It needs to be misted with water every day. I would love to try this on a print but I suspect the surface would not be porous enough. It would work well using some part of the building in Palatine but I have concerns about the time scale (moss is slow growing), the time of year (would it be dormant in the winter) and also I would have to go into college every day to mist it, a big commitment. There are very many varieties of moss, with different colours and heights, so there is an opportunity to create something really interesting with this technique. To remove the design afterwards, if you spray the moss with neat lime juice it will die, and can be easily removed.
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Thorns
Following on from the thorns I saw in the sleeping Beauty clip,  I found this image by Christoffer Relander
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I could do something like this but I think this technique is a bit overdone at the moment, so its not right for the exhibition.
I do really like the idea of using thorns though, surrounding and enveloping something, keeping others out, or keeping someone in.
Clipped wings
Fairy tales have traditionally been used to impart knowledge and morals to children, and to frame fear in ways that show it can be conquered.
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Agoraphobia sufferers tell themselves narratives to enable them to get through the fear in much the same way.
The need to return home to safety is referenced in the story of Hansel and Gretel- they are taken away by their wicked stepmother who is trying to lose them in the forest, but they cleverly lay a trail of breadcrumbs through the woods to enable them to return home safely by following the trail. However their plan fails when the bread is eaten by birds.
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I could do a breadcrumb trail in photos that could be used in a site specific way, and I could punctuate it with other images. The bird reference interests me too- as birds represent freedom. Some birds though have their wings clipped (usually caged birds) as this stops them flying high or far. This mutilation of the flight feathers is a metaphor for what the effect of agoraphobia on an individual, some can still fly but only short distances, some are completely home bound like the caged birds.
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Thinking about birds led me to thinking about nests and how they are built in hedges, which protect them. So the birds are using thorns in a positive way, their homes are safe because of them.
I have lots of ideas to develop from this idea- I like the use of a fairytale to illustrate agoraphobia as it links to the start of my anxieties, and it is a positive portrayal as everyone knows that fairytales have a happy ending!
Breadcrumb Trail
I’ve shot the breadcrumb trail- I see this as a physical thing interacting with the environment, so I’ve photographed the trail in small sections, to be printed up at small print size (probably 4 x 6) and put together in a trail, overlapping the prints. It might even be fun to transition from real breadcrumbs outside to a photo trail indoors. At different points in the trail I would like to put a larger print on the theme of agoraphobia, although this depends on the space used to exhibit- I was working on using the college space such as corridors, but if it is a fixed space such as the gallery it would be displayed differently.
Here is one of the trail shots – there are over 200 in total!
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I have been inspired by a book by Paul Hill called Corridor of Uncertainty, he produced images when grieving for his wife and presented them in a narrative which at first seems chaotic, but the overall book works well as each new image adds to the story.
My theme is based around thorns and how they can represent safety- such as when surrounding a birds nest; or danger such as when used as a barrier. I am shooting some fairly straight forward documentary shots on this theme, but also adding in some more obscure references in other pieces. The bird theme also runs through this work- I like the clipped wing reference showing how agoraphobia limits freedom. The whole project will build into a narrative and maybe question what it means to be agoraphobic, and how the condition changes over time, and how it is an individual response, one person might not make the effort to escape and embrace being at home all the time, yet another might continuously struggle to break free.
My biggest problem will be running out of time, as usual now that I have decided on my theme, I have loads of ideas, but may not have time to shoot them all.
3D
3D is not something that I do normally, but the birds nest that I collected and photographed is so beautiful in its own right that it got me thinking of ways to display it. I was thinking of those sculptured light shades made of string dipped in plaster of paris and wrapped round a balloon, but with the nest suspended in the middle like in a bird cage- like this;
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And not using string but thorns.. but obviously I can’t use a ballown as a template, and will it be possible to create this shape around the nest? I envisage it suspended somewhere so that it throws beautiful shadwosn so I need to find a good location.
I’m thinking of something like this….
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I like the ‘home’ within the boundary of thorns, and it looking a bit like a bird cage to link in with the safe feeling of being inside, yet being restricted. I’ve collected some long thorny branches (they need to be over a metre long and flexible so new growth, not easy to find at this time of year). Now let’s see if what I visualise turns out OK, or looks rubbish.
Images
 Derelict houses surrounded by thorns
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and a bird’s nest using thorns for protection
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Some thorn hedges- I particularly like the one that has been cut back and has regrown- working to beat agoraphobia is a constant battle to stop it coming back so this one works well for the project.
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These are documentary but I want to do some still life shots too, I have a few ideas to try out.
Installation
Some shots of the installation
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I hoped to have some more images but this is a project that I will continue after the exhibition.
The shots that got away-
clipped wings
caged birds
homing pigeons
venetian blinds with cut out (referencing clipped wings as they look like them)
flying bird imprints on glass, boundaries smashed
split images using broken mirror to reflect a print
Artists statement
“Pain has a way of clipping our wings and keeping us from being able to fly, and if left unresolved you can almost forget that you were ever created to fly in the first place.” Wm. Paul Young
Our lives are built around the narratives we tell ourselves, our memories, our feelings. What we choose to believe informs our journey; a safe path or a challenging one is chosen dependent on our past experiences and our expectations.  Inner anxiety limits us, clips our wings, yet also keeps us safe, and the parallels between an agoraphobia sufferer and my own creative practice were exposed during this project. I came up against creative boundaries as if entering new territory; inertia and indecision, procrastination, the need for approval were my thorns, threatening my progress. I allowed my own fears and limitations to inform and direct the work, and the result was a project that is deeply personal, almost cathartic, that stretched me creatively. It has inspired me to continue to explore what I previously would have avoided for fear of failure.

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