Fellowship 2023: Jaden Anderson
Blog: April - June 2023
Jaden Anderson started his fellowship with a powerful proposal informed by noticing the lack of mental health support, especially for men in our community. With our local council producing real statistics showing the Highlands have the highest suicide rate compared to the rest of Scotland, and from his own experience witnessing the hold mental health issues have had over Inverness.
How can art make an impact on suicidal thoughts?
Jaden is a young creative living and working in the Highlands, his journey with art hasn't been the smoothest sailing and we were keen to support an alternative pathway into a visual arts career. His practice encompasses a range of skills from drawing and painting to textiles and photography.
For the Circus Artspace team, Jaden was a refreshing voice and one we’d not heard from before - he brought into the light some of the real societal problems we have in our city. He is brave and wanted to open some dark but scarily real doors, to explore all the different aspects of mental health.
As part of our regular Studio Sessions, Jaden organised a walk to explore ideas, perceptions, and emotions associated with the Kessock Bridge. The bridge is a well-known local landmark that links Inverness and the Black Isle, but sadly is also the point at which numerous people have taken their own lives.
Jaden’s walk took us from sea-level at Inverness Marina, along the shorefront and up the steps to reach the pavement along the bridge.
Repetitive clicks of cars on and off the bridge.
Smell of chips and then pine & spruce.
We were struck by many things we hadn’t quite anticipated; the vast scale of the bridge and the water, the height we had gained, the wildlife, the views inland to Inverness and beyond and eastward out into the firth. We were also struck by a range of conflicting emotions; from feeling that we were simply users of a busy cycle-path, to feeling uplifted by the views and thankful for the support we share as a group, to feeling unease about the act of following journeys taken in such deeply sad circumstances.
Feet up to ear on rail shake
Navigation buoy waving side to side under pressure
Wave of sound passing
The experience was powerful, embodied and real and it felt important to have our perspectives shifted in this way. Jaden very much helped us to understand the context of this site in greater depth and to connect on a personal level with the challenges faced by our community. Jaden created a ‘slow walk’ as the structure and asked us to document our feelings, this invited us into the experience rather than simply observing. One of the aims of the Studio Sessions is to stimulate our own creative practice by sharing such experiences. Jaden created a session that revealed his own project vividly and generously created a space where we had the opportunity to explore our own creative approach to that place.
Working with Jaden was an amazing opportunity; he actively sought to exchange his skills and ideas with the group, and despite the difficult nature of the themes he confronts, he contributed real warmth and enthusiasm to all our events and workshops during his Fellowship.
Keen to progress his own film ideas, Jaden’s first event with us was the Film & Performance Scratch Night on the 22nd April - it was an opportunity to speak to like-minded people and explore the diversity of their creative approaches.
Fionn Duffy’s exhibition I can see your bones but I don’t know how to read them, in Eden Court’s chapel space gave Jaden experience of assisting with installation and invigilation.
From April to June, Jaden was also a participant in the Daylight project, where sessions explored queer identity and spaces through the creation of performative scores with artist Gordon Douglas and an interactive fabric sculpture for Highland Pride. Jaden proactively tasked himself with additional sewing at home in order to help the group meet its ambitious aims. The project involved a trip to Edinburgh where our Highland group could engage with the wider LGBTQ+ community at Pride there, as well as experience the embedded creative activism of projects like Lavender Menace, the queer bookshop and archive in Leith.
We are really looking forward to seeing how Jaden takes these experiences forward into his developing creative practice. His knowledge of the local community and commitment to exploring difficult topics coupled with his energy and kindness give him a really strong base from which to further establish his creative voice within Inverness.
Resources - if you are struggling with your own mental health, here are some good people in Inverness to get in touch with:
Highland Well-Ness Collective (Counselling)