Every three years, the City of Joondalup hosts a visual artist from interstate or overseas for a period of time so that they may produce a new artistic work and forge connections with the local community. This provides the City with an opportunity to view the local area through the fresh eyes of a visitor and their creative response to the residency. During their stay, the artist researches a commissioned artwork for the Art Collection based on their sustained engagement and experiences with the City’s social, urban or environmental attributes.
In 2015, the inaugural year of this program, the City hosted New York artist Brandon Ballengée for a specialised program of ecological, scientific and creative activities. In November 2018, Sydney-based artist Helen Pynor completed her residency at the City of Joondalup.
During this research residency Sydney artist, Dr Pynor explored the idea of regeneration: at a cellular level; in the lived experience of people rehabilitating from injury; and as a metaphor for renewal of spirit or community. She was interested in exploring an expanded understanding of the body, the ways it regenerates, and our own perceptions that are extended through the experience of rehabilitation and adaption.
Dr Pynor undertook an intensive period of research into the experiences of people who have spinal cord injuries and other disabilities, and new and emerging approaches to rehabilitation and regeneration following spinal cord injury or other medical conditions. The methodology adopted was to engage individuals (and sometimes groups) in a conversational style exchange of experiences, knowledge and practices. Dr Pynor also sat in on, observed, or participated in a wide range of practices including neuromuscular rehabilitation sessions, dance and performance rehearsals with performers with disabilities, and wheelchair sporting matches. In parallel to these activities she was actively developing ideas for the new commissioned work she will undertake in 2019, through a process of writing and drawing.
In the course of her research Dr Pynor met with a wide range of individuals and organisations from the following broad groups:
- Individuals with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities, such as acquired brain injury, Downs Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, and others;
- Clinicians working with people who have disabilities, through the process of rehabilitation and regeneration;
- Creative art practitioners who have disabilities and explore their experiences in their own practices;
- Creative art practitioners who are facilitating the creation of new work by artists with disabilities;
- Elite sports people with disabilities competing in sports such as wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby;
- Organisations that support the rehabilitation, life goals, sporting goals, and creative aspirations of individuals with a range of disabilities, but with a special focus on spinal cord injury;
- Clinicians and researchers who are using technologies such as Virtual Reality and robotics to create novel approaches to rehabilitation and regeneration and
- Creative art practitioners and organisations working in the art-science sector.
The specific stakeholders Dr Pynor interacted with during her residency include:
- Oron Catts, Director and Dr Ionat Zurr, Co-Founder, Creative art practitioners, SymbioticA – Biological Arts, The University of Western Australia;
- Dr Stuart Hodgetts, Scientist. Specialising in research into regeneration from spinal cord injury, Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology, The University of Western Australia;
- Sam Fox, Director, Writer and Film Maker. Working in disability communities such as Disability and Disadvantaged Arts Australia (DADAA);
- Ricky Arnold, Director, Simone Flavelle, Digital Producer and Julia Hales, Researcher, DADAA, Fremantle. An organisation supporting creative development of artists with disabilities and creative production of their works;
- Paige Gordon, Artistic Director and Tracksuit Dance Ensemble. A dance and performance ensemble including performers with disabilities and normally-abled performers, based at DADAA. She delivered an artist talk to the group;
- Sam Kerr, artist with acquired brain injury, and Lincoln McKinnon, film-maker mentor to Sam;
- Lynne Williams, Dance Facilitator, Dance for Parkinsons Group, DADAA;
- Leah Clarke, Joel Latham, Jessica Barclay, Hayley Paterson, Exercise Physiologists, Neuromoves, Edith Cowan University, Joondalup Campus.Neuromoves works with neuromuscular stimulation of the muscles below the injury site, for people with spinal cord injuries. Dr Pynor also attended lectures in Sydney at the nationwide professional development convention for Neuromoves staff, following her return to Sydney.;
- Matt Naysmith – individuals with spinal cord injuries who use Neuromoves services;
- Simon Mead, Director and Amber Merritt, Programs Officer and Wheelchair Basketball Paralympian, Rebound WA;
- Frank, Elite wheelchair basketball athlete, visual arts student;
- Wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby competition games;
- Fraser Clarke, Manager, CP Tech, Dreamfit, Ability Centre;
- Dale Brown, General Manager, and Hannah Shackleton, Operations Manager – Goodwill Engineering, Ability Centre;
- Professor Moira Sim, Executive Dean, School of Medical and Health Sciences; Associate Professor Natalie Ciccone School of Medical and Health Sciences, Mr Kyle Smith, Business Manager, Vario Health Clinic and Dr Onno van der Groen, Post-Doctoral Fellow, stroke rehabilitation robotics research program, School of Medical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Joondalup Campus;
- Sarah Elson and Susan Roux, Visual Artists who exhibited at the City of Joondalup Community Initiative Art Award. Roux won two awards at the Prize, Elson was awarded the City of Joondalup Inside-Out Billboard commission.
- Councillor Michael Norman, City of Joondalup. Tour of the coastal sand dune regeneration projects with Cr Norman and community members have worked on over a period of several decades.
Dr Pynor will now work on an art commission for the City’s Art Collection to be delivered by June 2019.
Dr Pynor intends to work with the spinal cord injury (SCI) community to produce the new commissioned artwork, which is likely to take the form of video or photographs. She would like to explore the experience of living with SCI and the capacity of the body to retain capacity, even in parts of the body that are ‘below’ the injury site. This falls within a broader interest of hers in the unexpected capacities of bodies to improvise and display forms of ‘intelligent thought’ during processes of recovery and regeneration.
It is Dr Pynor’s intention to invite members of the SCI community to collaborate in creation of the work: Exercise physiologists/ therapists at Neuromoves to contribute technical and therapeutic expertise; and one or more individuals with SCI to contribute as performer(s) in the work and as expert(s) in the experience of living with SCI.
A range of venues are currently being considered that could support the launch or first showing of the work, including art galleries, a venue at the ECU Joondalup campus, or wheelchair basketball venues.
It is hoped that the new work will inspire audience members, provoke questions, generate new and different ideas about the experience of SCI, and facilitate new conversations and dialogues about both the experience of SCI and the capacity of the human body for improvisation and regeneration.