In May 2019, a two-year project was realised for inspirational GSA lighting tutor Mig Burgess when her unique installation Blackout was revealed. The installation harnesses the collective powers of light, sound and video, hoping to affect genuine changes in the approach to mental health. Blackout portrays, in a sensory way, the mental journey inside a Bipolar II patient’s head as they transition through a manic episode.
“I’m a creative – it’s far easier to express my feelings through art than through words. Literally, ‘sometimes the lights go out in my head’,” says Mig who suffers with Bipolar II.
The essential seed money for this project was provided by Robe. Mick Hannaford, Robe UK: “Blackout reinforces the strong connection between Robe and GSA through the NRG. We are very proud to be involved and hope it highlights the importance, need for, and access to mental health welfare throughout our industry, for both the current and the next generations of creatives, technicians and artists”.
Mig assembled a highly skilled and imaginative creative team to realise the installation, including theatre director Simon Anderson, sound designer Zoe Milton, video designer Finn Ross; and LD Paul Burgess.
Blackout has a serious academic side to it with research into the attitude, beliefs and understanding of mental health issues led by clinical psychologist Dr Paul Hanna, University of Surrey.
Josef Valchar, CEO Robe: "We are delighted to help Mig make Blackout a reality. It was fascinating experiencing the installation first-hand. All of us at Robe admire Mig’s bravery in addressing the challenges she faces in such an open and honest way. I hope this valuable installation will be seen by many more people, and will provide invaluable insight, understanding, and discussion surrounding mental health awareness - in our industry and in the broader community."
Blackout has been described as a ‘theatrical show with no cast’, where the lighting, the sound, the vibrations, the projections all became the cast. “I know the arts can work with science to make a difference” states Mig. “Let’s see what impact the technologies used here have in improving understanding and provoking more discussion around mental health. The level of industry collaboration and working towards a common goal through this project is an example and an inspiration.”
“If the only message we get out there with Blackout is that ‘it’s ok to not be ok’ then something worthwhile has been achieved. It’s time to be open, share, and generate discussion that will lead to a greater understanding of mental health.”