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Reviews/Fringe World Festival/Theatre

Cards for humanity

26 January 2020

Designed for those days when your mental health needs a hand, we could all benefit from Jen Jamieson’s This Is Not Personal, suggests Nina Levy.

Review: Jen Jamieson, This Is Not Personal ·
Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, 25 January 2020 ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

As a journalist, deadlines have been an integral part of my life for over a decade. Happily, I enjoy the boundaries and clarity that a deadline brings to my work.

When I am on deadline I am focused. I am productive. I also become socially dysfunctional, to the point where even having to say the words, “I’m on deadline, can we discuss this after lunch?” sends my cortisol levels rocketing.

Imagine, then, if I didn’t need to say these words. If I had a card, much like an old-fashioned calling card, that I could hand to my colleague, my neighbour, my friend, that simply said:

I find it difficult to talk to others when I have a deadline.
Can we speak when my deadline has been met?

Well, thanks to West Australian artist Jen Jamieson and her latest work-in-development, This Is Not Personal, I now have my card, plus two others for situations in which anxiety is making social interaction challenging for me.

With just a handful of participants each session, Jamieson conducts This Is Not Personal workshop-style, inviting each audience member to create their own set of personalised sign cards for sharing in “times of difficulty”.

As she explains, although we are talking about mental health a lot more than in previous decades, it’s still easier to tell your colleagues about your sore throat than your depressed mood. Jamieson’s card-making workshop is designed to help break down the barrier that still exists, for many of us, around talking about our own mental health.

Jamieson is renowned for her interactive works, which blur the distinction between artist and audience. Whether one-on-one or small group based, what makes her works so special is her ability to create a warm and safe environment in which to forge a connection with audience members.

This is my fifth experience of a Jamieson work and, as always, I emerged feeling the blossom of joy that comes from feeling that you have been heard and understood.

We all need a bit of This Is Not Personal in our lives … but with just three sessions left, you’d better book quickly to secure your spot.

This Is Not Personal runs at PICA until 1 February 2020.

Pictured top is Jen Jamieson (right) with a participant in This Is Not Personal.

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Author —
Nina Levy

Nina Levy has worked as an arts writer and critic since 2007. She co-founded Seesaw and has been co-editing the platform since it went live in August 2017. As a freelancer she has written extensively for The West Australian and Dance Australia magazine, co-editing the latter from 2016 to 2019. Nina loves the swings because they take her closer to the sky.

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