Visualising the Invisible: Arts and Science Collaboration
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Visualising the Invisible: Arts and Science Collaboration. Karen Heald, Dr Susan Liggett, Dr Richard Tranter & Prof Rob Poole.

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Visualising the Invisible: Arts and Science Collaboration

Karen Heald, Dr Susan Liggett, Dr Richard Tranter & Prof Rob Poole


Working in a UK based NHS hospital, Heald & Liggett, two contemporary artist’s, collaborate with patients and staff, in a 71 bedded acute adult psychiatric inpatient unit, engaging with arts and science audiences.

The research enquires into the politics of location, psychoanalytical theories, psychological resonance and the philosophical complexities of arts/science collaborations.


Working in a UK based NHS hospital, Heald & Liggett, two contemporary artist’s, collaborate with patients and staff, in a 71 bedded acute adult psychiatric inpatient unit, engaging with arts and science audiences. The research enquires into the politics of location, psychoanalytical theories, psychological resonance and the philosophical complexities of arts/science collaborations.


  • The research commenced by exploring contemporary artist’s, collaborate with patients and staff, in a 71 bedded acute adult psychiatric inpatient unit, engaging with arts and science audiences. The research enquires into the politics of location, psychoanalytical theories, psychological resonance and the philosophical complexities of arts/science collaborations.

  • Julia Kristeva’s concept that female subjectivity seems linked to both cyclical time (menstruation/pregnancy/repetition) and monumental time in sense of eternity (motherhood/reproduction/genetic chain)

  • ‘Psychological resonance,’ a particular part of the creative process that conjures up the idea of movement between something experienced (object) and it’s impact on the individual (subject).


Karen Heald & Susan Liggett contemporary artist’s, collaborate with patients and staff, in a 71 bedded acute adult psychiatric inpatient unit, engaging with arts and science audiences. The research enquires into the politics of location, psychoanalytical theories, psychological resonance and the philosophical complexities of arts/science collaborations. White & Blue (2009)

Heald and Liggett are developing ideas relating to a ‘space’ an ‘in-between-ness’ and ‘cyclical time’ from an art and science perspective.


Heald and Liggett’s developmental concepts relating to a ‘space’ an ‘in-between-ness’ and ‘cyclical time’ from an art/science perspective.

Heald began exploring Kristeva’s notion of the semiotic chora as a preverbal space that relates to rhythms, colours and trace, the preverbal infant, the depressive and the psychotic. She became interested in the aspect of the unconscious/subconcious, through working with the patients, exploring maternal/cyclical/monumental time, poetics and the chora. Through ‘dream films’ she creates ambient environments, where the audience is unsure as to whether one is asleep/awake, or even in a state of ‘in-between-ness’.

Liggett found ‘in-between-ness’ relates to the stage in the creative process where the artists in her research could not articulate in words exactly what they were intending in their work. The dream state described as occupying ‘in-between-ness’ could also be akin to ‘psychological resonance’, the movement between ‘sites' or 'states of being', that exists, but are intangible and difficult to articulate. Exploring Winnicott (1994) and Witkin (1974) Liggett suggests that there are three areas of related experience, the subjective, the objective and what Winnicott calls 'potential space'. This 'potential space' Liggett sees as having similarities to ‘in-between-ness’.

Heald and Liggetts work at the hospital only enabled the artist’s access to patients who are on/adjusting to medication.


Karen Heald The Bird Cage (2002)

Video still - performance / installation - former psychiatric hospital in ArToll, Germany


. Heald


Psychological resonance
Psychological Resonance Heald

The term 'psychological resonance' suggests a sensation, a resonance, or an echo in the mind, that cannot easily be described verbally, on seeing and experiencing a particular place.

Thoughts and feelings generated in the mind, which are sometimes difficult to articulate, but are, perhaps, important in an interpretation of an experience. The problems arising from recognizing, defining and categorizing these emotions and feelings and how are they explored by artists in their work are of interest to me.

Dr Susan Liggett (2008)


Susan Liggett Heald Pushed then Flew (2003) 66 x 86 cm. Oil on linen

‘Psychological resonance’ reverberates between the ‘subject’ and ‘object’ in a ‘ceaseless exchange’ between the artist, inspiration and the viewer.

Dr Susan Liggett (2008)


Susan Liggett Heald Mast not Anchor (1996) Susan Liggett, Untitled (2003)

120 x 120 cm. Oil on canvas 137 cms x122 cms, oil on linen

“Creativity is the result of inner listening, a dialogue between self and other, ‘subject’ and ‘object’. Therefore knowledge of reality or meaning does not lie in the ‘subject’ or the ‘object’, but the dynamic flow between them.”

(Bohm, 1987).


Karen Heald and Sue Liggett Heald The Artists Creation (II) 2008


Building upon the work being completed at the psychiatric unit and in collaboration with Dr Richard Tranter, consultant psychiatrist, Prof. Rob Poole, Professor of Mental Health and GP surgeries, Heald and Liggett are proposing new perspectives into the effects of anti-depressant medications.


  • Scientists know that antidepressants subtly alter the way people perceive emotional stimuli around them, altering people’s social behaviour’s, on a level that people are not consciously aware of.

  • Through arts/science research the collaborators are interested to explore if patient changes are reflected in the way people express themselves and respond to their environment, prior, during and post antidepressant medication.


Film discussion 1 people perceive emotional stimuli around them, altering people’s social behaviour’s, on a level that people are not consciously aware of.

Karen - As artists our driving force is our passion for what we do

Rob - Area daunting but really exciting different kind of way for mental health treatment


The collaborative arts/science practice will explore these interests through creative, patient lead, artistic expressions of change alongside conventional, reductionist measures of changing depressive symptoms (Beck Depression Inventory) producing sophisticated fusions of art/science.


Film discussion 2 interests through

Richard - Talking about patient experience

Rob - triangle (artists, scientists and patients all feeding back to one another)

Karen - As artists also as patients subject - object


  • The difference between this research and the current project at the Ablett is that we will:

    • Be given access to patients pre medication - enabling us to work in GP surgeries and out patients departments to observe the patients before, during and after medication

    • Work closely with a team of consultants and research staff at the University hospital, allowing this collaboration to reach a higher level of investigation

    • Produce some cutting edge artworks


  • Proposed outputs from Research and Development at the Ablett is that we will:

  • Creative outputs

  • Collection of two or three surreal, dream-like, films

  • Installation comprising of twenty to thirty photographic and text based artworks

  • These pieces will explore the relationship between the ‘true’ self, reality or fiction, to create artworks that when viewed create uncertainty as to whether one is awake or asleep or in a state of in-between-ness.


  • Possible statements/questions for discussion? at the Ablett is that we will:

    • How does creativity relate to mental health and how does a search for the poetic help mental health patients?

    • What are the benefits of art/science research projects and how can artists make a difference to social science qualitative research projects?

    • How do we construct our reality? Can this process be manipulated through medications? If so, what are the implications for the authenticity of self for someone who has had such treatment?


Selected references
Selected References at the Ablett is that we will:

Bohm, D. (1987) Science, Order and Creativity, Bantam

Foucault, M. (1966) The Order of Things, Routledge, London

Kristeva, J. (1974) Revolution in Poetic Language, Routledge, London, UK

Kristeva, J. (1979) Women’s Time, Routledge, London, UK

Singh, I. (2007) Clinical Implications of Ethical Concepts: Moral Self-Understanding in Children Taking Methylphenidate for ADHD, Sage, London, UK

Winnicott, D.W. (1971) Playing and Reality, Routledge, London.

Witkin, R. (1974) The Intelligence of Feeling, Heinemann, London.


Thank you

Thank-you at the Ablett is that we will:

Karen Heald - [email protected]

Dr Susan Liggett - [email protected]

Dr Richard Tranter - [email protected]

Prof Rob Poole - [email protected]


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