As a project we are, we are seeks to change the conversation we have about mental health. Having been diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder myself, in 2005, this project is both personal and deeply needed socially. Too often people with mental health issues are demonized, portrayed as violent criminals, and wrongfully stigmatized. This social attitude will only change through our direct involvement with the stories of those affected. we are, we are”is a series of performance art events that address my lived experiences with schizophrenia while allowing room for dialogue. In total, three performances will examine language structure, identity issues (rooted in the perceptions of reality), and symptomology. The final event will be accompanied by a publication which will be given to attendees of the performance, and which examine my experiences through poetry, short essay, and visual means. Following each event there will be a dialogue session in which attendees are encouraged to ask questions about mental health, find common solutions to engaging the subject matter more personally, and share their own stories. we are, we are will not romanticize madness, but instead focus on the human aspect. This means there may be difficult subject matter, or difficult experiences that are not typically discussed, but, by addressing all aspects of this illness we can form new avenues of healing centered around the individual and the community that supports them.
Since 2005 my art work has been a continued attempt to find my place within an illness of which I could never quite grasp the scope. Schizophrenia is an ever elusive disease that changes and extends. In many ways the proposed project continues this path of exploration, though it enhances recent attempts to find common ground in the experiences of “normal” people in an effort to humanize mental illness. My career may ultimately fail in the attempt to explain schizophrenia in its totality, though the path forward seems to provide rich substance connected to personal stories, deep and complicated histories, and an innovative approach to healing. This will always be my practice, to follow that path where it leads and to find people to share it with along the way.
Matt Bodett received his MFA from Boise State University in 2011, and taught printmaking there until he moved to Chicago in 2013. Since moving to Chicago he has played an active role in disability advocacy and utilizing artwork to open dialogue around mental health. As a visual artist, poet, and performance artist Matt has had opportunities to share his work at many venues throughout the Chicago including Steppenwolf Theater, Victory Gardens, The Poetry Foundation, Intuit: the Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Evanston Art Center, Gallery 400, and many other locations. His printmaking has been featured in the 3rd Global Print exhibition and the 9th Douro Biennial in Douro, Portugal, as well as print exhibitions in Tehran, Iran; Milan, Italy; and Oslo, Norway. Matt also teaches at Loyola University Chicago, Northeastern University, and is on the advisory board for the Institute for Therapy Through the Arts based in Evanston, IL.In 2005 Matt was diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder and has utilized the experience of understanding the world anew in his acts of art. Linguistics, psychology, mental health, and phenomenology all play important roles within each act.