Art is well known for making us feel a variety of emotions, including happy and joyous ones, as well as some more morbid ones, such as disturbing and confusing. Do these reactions occur solely because of the artwork, or are there other factors involved?
Recently, I visited an art exhibition that took place in a Psychiatric Hospital -Dromokaiteio -in Athens that had as it's main theme the different types of “Confinements'', both literal and figurative. The exhibition took place inside the hospital in three different buildings with lifelong -symbolic- history and importance. The buildings that were chosen could easily stand out as works of art by themselves that invited you to explore and decipher them as such. As a result of testimonies both from the staff and the patients, the exhibition aimed to create connections between literal and figurative confinements. This was made possible due to the involvement of a large number of artists.
As I was strolling between the space -with high walls, small cells, dark corners and the general feeling of abandonment all over the place - I started feeling like something wasn’t quite alright. I thought that was purely caused by the vivid imagery in front of me - and if we're being honest, that played a major role in my emotional state given the theme and the art.
But after a while, even when I stepped outside that feeling wasn’t going anywhere. When I was heading into the other building of the exhibition, despite not being surrounded by any artworks to provoke emotional reactions, I still felt the same way, so I began to wonder why?
When I took some time to recollect, I realized not only was I greatly influenced by the place, but I could also feel - even touch - its energy, something simmering beneath the surface. Of course, that makes perfect sense since this place was inhabited not so long ago by patients, and some still reside on the other side of the garden.
Therefore, I wonder now with a "fresher" mind, does the artwork alone cause us to feel the emotions that we feel when we observe it? How it's location affects the way we experience it? Let’s take the example of a museum or a gallery: clean walls, open spaces, an organised space with luxury items perhaps and visitors collected here and there with light conversations floating around the air. But that was not exactly the case in that exhibition as we had the remnants of lives long lost -even when they were in fact “alive”- in addition to the art pieces. The place itself added to the general feeling of - something not quite alright - it pushed into feeling even more powerfully the experience and having all of your senses activated (eyesight, hearing, smell, touch).
As a result, I wondered: maybe when it’s convenient we should be bolder and make a step outside the comfort zone. It is much more powerful and profound when the space and art converse with each other. I really hope that I can get to experience much more powerful moments like this in the future. I salute everyone that takes those leaps of faith, you are the reason for making art even more beautiful than it already is.