PS/Y Logo

Acting Out

Acting Out Nottingham 2015 is a festival that celebrates artistic expression through performative engagement at the interface of art and mental health through an investigation of the concept of ‘acting out’.

The starting point for the programme is the contested term ‘acting out’, which connects psychological language with the rhetoric of social order and performativity. This exploration is intended to facilitate collaborations between arts and health disciplines in order to change the way that deviant behaviour is perceived.

Our approach is based on the history and understanding that the term ‘acting-out’ reveals. On the one hand, it references the contested discourses surrounding mental illness, stigma and discrimination whilst, on the other, it refers to the aesthetic relationship between psychoanalysis and social order.

Having already existed as an artistic term, which simply meant to ‘perform or to portray’, Freud introduced ‘acting out’ to psychoanalysis in 1905 to describe what happened when his patient Dora prematurely broke off her treatment with him. He concluded that she had ‘acted out an essential part of her recollection and phantasies’, referring to unconscious defences, impulses and feelings expressed as a defence mechanism.

The Italian revolutionary psychiatrist Franco Basaglia further shifted the meaning of acting out to describe a confrontation between the patient and the psychiatric institution within a system of power, when he wrote: ‘The patient is now just an institutionalised body, which perceives itself as an object and sometimes tries – when it is not totally tamed – to re-conquer by means of an apparently incomprehensible ‘acting out’’. *

In its popular use, ‘acting out’ now describes a whole range of impulsive or antisocial behaviours and is often confused with ‘acting up’, which means simply to misbehave.

Acting Out Nottingham 2015 explores the various iterations of ‘acting out’ through new commissions and existing works. It offers multiple approaches to the term from its psychoanalytic origins to the basic sense of translating subjective feelings into performative action.

The programme will showcase works that have different languages and rhythms, which will provide audiences with a variety of experiences and levels of engagement including moving image, artist’s residency, music, dance, performance, exhibition and discussions.

Following the methodology of Anxiety 2014, the programme has a special focus on interdisciplinary and socially engaged practices, involving professionals and communities from arts and mental health sectors and promoting creativity and social interaction. It aims to stimulate collaboration and discussion and to challenge the stigma associated with mental illness by engaging audiences in a positive dialogue about mental health in a cultural rather than clinical setting.

Working closely with Nottingham Contemporary, Primary, Broadway and Nottingham Lakeside Arts as well as Nottingham Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, we have curated a series of interdisciplinary and process-based collaborations with arts and mental health organisations: from community groups to leading arts centres, and artists categorized as ‘outsiders’ to mainstream practitioners.

– Errol Francis Festival Director


Image: Latifa Laâbissi, Écran Somnambule, 2012, Photo: Margot Videcoq