Within the narrative, as Bunyan sleeps, he dreams of devout everyman Christian, who abandons his family and the City of Destruction to journey to the Celestial City and salvation. This infamous fictional pilgrimage is adopted by Bedford–born Brimfield as a loose allegory for a collapse of mental health and fraught journey to recovery, beleaguered on all sides by malign forces both real and imagined.
Scripted audio monologues and film works are staged amidst theatrical sets and props, casting visitors as both audience and performer in a series of listening stations as static tableaux. In the darkly comedic Ungeziefer, a hapless voiceover artist in a recording studio attempts to record an abridged audiobook of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, heckled by a cast of gibbering, shrieking voices yammering a chorus of disapproval, apparently unheard by the attendant bored producer. Xenobath begins as a detective’s log of a surveillance operation before dissolving into a poetic binaural monologue, a collective hallucination articulated by an oscillating swarm of voices. The alienating effects of perceptual and cognitive malfunction resonate throughout the body of work on display.
The accessibility and value of creativity to the isolated is both the subject and method of STAND, produced in collaboration with composer Gwyneth Herbert. The epic 16 channel sculptural sound piece at the centre of the show unites and foregrounds organisations across the UK who provide crucial opportunities for socialising through communal activity to support wellness and recovery at a time of disastrous austerity cuts to mental health services. A complex choral composition is the setting for an extraordinary recording of a long-term inpatient at Bethlem Hospital reciting poetry, captured by Brimfield as part of a year of research at the National Psychosis Unit and Kings College Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience. At the centre of an elaborately hand-painted 15-sided platform, the recitation emanates from a speaker embedded in a tree, gold-leafed and hung with hundreds of polished semi-precious stones. A circle of 15 chairs is gathered around the sculpture, each one individually designed and built by different chapters of UK Men’s Sheds and Men’s Shed Cymru in close collaboration with Brimfield, variously incorporating whittling, marquetry, mosaic, woodturning, patchwork and stained glass making. A speaker is built into each chair, relaying parts of the complex multi-channel composition, performed by members of Harrow-based More Than Just a Choir. STAND is a call to arms; it is a celebratory paean to the power of collective action in an ever more unsettled world, promoting empathy and kinship as an antidote to fear and fragility.