Chisenhale Gallery presents the vacuum cleaner and collaborators: For They Let In The Light from November 25 to December 4, 2022.
For They Let In The Light is a new live commission at Chisenhale Gallery by artist and mental health activist the vacuum cleaner (aka James Leadbitter), created in collaboration with a group of young artists he met at the Coborn Centre for Adolescent Mental Health in Newham, East London, in the spring of 2021.
The vacuum cleaner draws on his own experience of mental health handicap in his performances, films, and site-specific interventions, working with young people, health professionals, and adults to question how mental health is perceived, managed, and experienced. This project reacts to a mental health problem among young people by amplifying the perspectives of individuals who have been uniquely isolated by the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns.
During a time of rigorous on-site work at the Coborn Centre, James and artistic collaborator Caroline Moore challenged the group to react creatively to the question, “why are so many young people dealing with their mental health?” The resulting material—stories, dance, and music—captures the physical and emotional textures of their surroundings.
The group reassembled after being released from the hospital. The new goal became how to communicate work of such intensity and personal valence critically and carefully. The outcome is For They Let In The Light, a series of hybrid open-studio concerts blending recordings with live performances.
The artists’ work asks, What does it take to develop and retain trust? How might artistic practices facilitate connection and conversations about difficult topics? And what new relationship does such a process allow you to have with your history, yourself, and the institutions we live in?
For They Let In The Light strives to be “messy, odd, from the heart, angry, honest, tender, fragile, complex, about mental health or not about mental health, essential, necessary, and foolish,” in the words of James. This project attempts to shed light on what it means to be young and live with acute mental health difficulties in a system that mainly fails young people, demonstrating what a more compassionate and caring one may look like. It is also a celebration of the creativity and critical thinking of these young artists.
Biography: “the vacuum cleaner” (James Leadbitter) is an artist based in Margate, UK. Selected projects include: Exposure, Wellcome Collection, Royal Docks (2021); Mental, The Barbican, SpielArt Munich (2013-2019); Madlove: A Designer Asylum, FACT, Wellcome Collection, Broadmoor Hospital, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, Heart of Glass (2013); Ship of Fools, Bluecoat Liverpool, Projects Space London and Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, Michigan (2011).