I had a tutorial today and my tutor mentioned that there had been controversy about our group exhibition that we curated. People seemed to find it controversial because it was making stereotypes and generalisations about people who have drug and alcohol problems and saying that it was linked to mental illness. Nowadays we don’t get offended as easily as perhaps we would have done 30 years ago, but mental illness and addictions are the kind of subjects that will always be touchy or sensitive to some people.
I hadn’t really considered that our exhibition could be seen in this way. It is absolutely not the case that those who have a mental illness are all addicted to drugs and/or alcohol or that drug and alcohol addictions are linked to mental illness.
Mental illness is one of those subjects that people like to show in their work but it’s quite hard to portray without there being some potential to offend those with, or in contact with people with mental illness.
Larry Clark published a book called Tulsa in 1971 and that created quite a bit of controversy. At the beginning of the book he says “...when i was sixteen i started shooting amphetamine. i shot with my friends everyday for three years and then left town but i’ve gone back through the years. once the needle goes in it never comes out…” (Clark, L (2000). Tulsa. New York: Grove Press.) The people that he photographed did drugs because they were bored, it was nothing to do with mental illness.