Visiting Mithras to gain spiritual guidance
My partner and I followed in the footsteps of Romans 2000 years ago, visiting London’s atmospheric Mithras Temple to build our collective wellbeing. This was after a harrowing week (see last weeknotes) and ahead of what we knew would be another tough time, as my partner was booked in for hospital midweek. The London Mithraeum is stunning. An atmospheric, dark temple complex nine meters below street level (at the original Roman street level, on the banks of the long-disappeared river Walbrook), with fantastic light, mist, sound and atmosphere conjuring a sense of temple life, 2000 years ago. There is a fascinating gallery of artefacts found locally - the Romans embanked the Walbrook with rubbish and landfill - including Roman wooden writing tablets, which I have only ever heard about before. You can see these tablets pictured above (bottom left); you can read about them here.
As mentioned in last weeknotes, I have learnt that one of the ways we effectively deal with sorrow and grief is by focusing on something completely different, and letting the emotions mingle and emerge naturally. The Mithraeum provided this perfect focal point.
Artefacts to stimulate thinking on street design
I met with my amazing colleagues from Policy Lab on Monday to set up an event on street design at the Chartered Institute for Highways and Transport in Old Street. The event featured physical artefacts and participatory processes to stimulate different thinking about street design, including a crowd-sourced photographic wall of street design, a VR headset, digital woodcuts (featured last week) and maps. I will blog about this more in the future, but the event was delivered with dynamism and dexterity, with the team creating a participatory tile map of dystopian and utopian streets… (pictured above, centre).
Anxiety - and jokes
Tuesday and Wednesday saw some of our toughest days since the previous Monday (when we first learnt our upsetting news). We were more prepared this time, but the physicality of the process was still extremely difficult. Again I won’t dwell on this too much at this time, but there are a couple of reflections for now. First, I was struck by the artwork on display in the women’s health unit of the hospital we had asked to move to. The walls were adorned with inspiring representations of strong and characterful women, from all parts of the world, depicted in a variety of powerful poses. It really set the tone for an approach to care that we both thought seemed more women-centred and psychologically aware than our previous hospital.
Second, whilst my partner was in surgery on the Wednesday, with every minute of waiting I became more and more anxious, worrying about various complications and disasters (irrational of course, but that’s how we work). I found that I dealt with it by creating artwork. In this case, a series of fliers and digital images relating to an art exhibition I am curating at The Mill called The Jokes On Us! . The irony of dealing with this upsetting and stressful time by creating artworks about jokes is noted. In some respects this is a neat reflection of how humans often use humour to deal with the difficult times.
The week came to a positive close by visiting Paul and James at the Yonder climbing centre in Blackhorse Road, to flesh out plans for our show for the E17 Art Trail. Laura Kerry from Artillery Arts and Jason Hawkridge also provided some great ideas and advice, especially on our plan to create an enormous mural in the climbing space. The space - pictured above (bottom centre and top right) - is already beautiful with the angular geometry of the climbing surfaces. We will meet next week to start our thinking for artworks in this impressive space. I will use my experience from hospital earlier in the week to consider how art can compliment an organisation’s values and improve the experience for its visitors.
From Ice Age to Wetlands: The Lea Valley’s Return to Nature (2017), Jim Lewis