'When another human being approaches and you are face to face … you are under an obligation to respond … so that she or he might be heard' – philosophers Jean-Luc Nancy and Ann Smock
This autumn sees the launch of a major new commission by Mikhail Karikis that explores the relationship between listening and care. Karikis' new moving image installation has developed with Project Art Works, an artist-led organisation in Hastings that collaborates with people with complex support needs. Focusing on interactions between carers and non-verbal people who use Project Art Works' studio spaces, Karikis invites us to pay attention to the sensitive tuning-in of support workers, artists and family members to those they support – a precarious role that is often invisible, misunderstood and undervalued by society.
Over the course of a year, Karikis spent time with different groups of people in Project Art Works' studios. He was drawn to the intimate relationships between caregivers and those they support, noticing the subtlety and difference in each person's non-verbal language, how it is paid attention to, heard and interpreted. The resulting installation comprises a series of video portraits of caregivers, captured in the acts of alert listening to and communicating with those they care for, accompanied by the non-verbal vocalisations caregivers hear and their responses to them.
"At a crucial moment in history marked by persistent deadlock in political negotiations, divisive ideological discourse and growing differences of opinion over common purpose and future in the UK and in Europe, observing caregivers working with non-verbal people, so that they may be heard, serves as a gateway to a generous and inclusive way of thinking about relating to others. It is a hopeful affirmation that, no matter how difficult the circumstances are, communication is possible."
Kate Adams (artist and Director of Project Art Works) writes:
"Through his sensitive interactions with us in the studio, Mikhail quickly recognised the expansive nature of non-verbal communication where the 'inconspicuous signifiers' of those who do not use language to communicate can be picked up and responded to by those who support them."
This new work continues Karikis' long-standing interest in non-verbal communication as a political agent that can transmit the experience of existence on the margins of society. He is also concerned with invisible and marginalised forms of labour, and those who are made vulnerable by capitalist society.
Mikhail Karikis' project is commissioned as part of Project Art Works' EXPLORERS – a three-year programme of awareness raising and encounter workshops, conversations, productions, commissions, exhibitions and seminars in collaboration with people who have complex needs and those who support them.
Taking place against a backdrop of increased hardship and intolerance toward disabled people, the aim is to develop positive relationships between cultural organisations and the social care sector and to reposition people who have complex needs at the forefront of mainstream culture.
The programme led by Project Art Works will take place at partner galleries across the country with Autograph, Fabrica, De La Warr Pavilion, MK Gallery, National Institute for Experimental Arts UNSW, Photoworks and Tate Liverpool.
Project Art Works is an artist-led organisation that makes and promotes art as a means of connection with and for people with complex needs. They collaborate with neurodiverse communities, galleries, health and social care agencies to promote inclusion in civic and cultural life.
The EXPLORERS project is supported by the Arts Council Ambition for Excellence Programme and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.