Mental Illness Is Not A Crime | Claire Fitzpatrick

Review of May 7 performance by Elise Lawrence.

Claire Fitzpatrick facilitated a calming space for sensory exploration with her interactive experience Mental Illness Is Not A Crime.

Mental Illness Is Not A Crime was not a performance in a traditional sense but more of a workshop or an interactive space focused on ASMR. Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is a tingling sensation that typically begins on the scalp and moves down the back of the neck and upper spine. People might experience this from visual, tactile, or auditory stimuli, and Mental Illness Is Not A Crime provided an immersive space to explore and experience ASMR and its potential to positively impact mental health.

A number of stations had been set up around the space, which included items to touch, taste, hear, smell, and feel. A calming soundtrack played in the background and attendees could move freely between the stations: tasting something sweet or sour; dipping their hands in and out of playdough and other sensory play materials; engaging in hair brushing and head massage; lighting incense; using noise-cancelling headphones and enjoying a soft, quiet space; painting their bodies and others’; or a combination of these things and more. The body painting was a significant part of the work, and attendees took to it with an enthusiasm (and artistic skill!) that was pleasantly surprising, with many stripping down to their undergarments to create more canvas space. The loose structure of the session introduced an element of uncertainty for me, as I personally feel more comfortable when boundaries are set clearly in a performance space, but Claire was a warm and generous facilitator, and emphasised that attendees were free to engage as much or as little as they felt comfortable with. After plenty of time to explore and play, Claire brought everyone back together in a circle and led a guided meditation to finish the session.

The title of the work did not feel particularly connected to the performance, but I certainly enjoyed the element of play, the fully interactive structure, and the enthusiasm that everyone brought to the space. It was interesting to speak to other attendees about their experiences of ASMR, and even just to consider how long it had been since I had engaged in so much tactile play (a long time!). I left the session feeling relaxed and refreshed, and interested to learn more about ASMR.

Claire Fitzpatrick will present Mental Illness Is Not A Crime at EC Venue in Fortitude Valley from May 7-8. Ticketing and further information is available on the event page.

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