I AM: Memoirs of Addiction Recovery

uncool strip
uncool (2014) © Cristina Nuñez

I AM was a 2 year European project that employed art & artists as facilitators of social change within recovery from substance misuse.

Contemporary art offered us multiple, visible perspectives of what recovery means and looks like.

Through delivery artists, the participating drug & alcohol agencies and other cultural organisations were brought together to create a cohesive grouping; and bring disenfranchised people to high quality, cultural and artistic experiences.

Central to its success was the wider exploration of the social and cultural contexts of recovery with peoples and recovering communities from Greater Manchester & Liverpool – UK, Pistoia & Pescara – Italy and Kutahya – Turkey, facilitated by Pan-European exchange.

The project provided a platform to look at how the arts and culture can support recovering people to develop new life-opportunities by working with international artists: Ali Zaidi, founding Co-Director of Moti Roti – UK, Cristina Nuñez of the Self Portrait Experience – Italy and Selda Asal, founding Director of the Apartment Project – Turkey.

Portraiture in its extensive conceptual sense was used to facilitate participant’s self-representation and was delivered over a series of 5 day artist led residency workshops in each of the partner countries. The artwork production was a collaborative journey under taken by the artists with participants and offered us a powerful display of participants’ voices as presented through their stories, as well as their portraits beyond current clichéd representation.

Ali Zaidi utilized food as a starting point for self. Zaidi’s series of still & moving image works bypass the addiction label to reveal notions of unseen beauty and in PER TE MAMMA the fragile emotional complexity of the human condition.

In Cristina Nuñez video work UNCOOL; silence subverts addiction through an amplification of the emotive voice that places emphasis on ‘self’ as both the cause and cure.

Selda Asal’s, video animation I Need to Change the Last Line presents us with a series of self-storying narratives recounting the reconstructed past, perceived present and the imagined future alongside reoccurring themes of family and love.

Building on ideas in the Bill of Recovery Rights a consultative RECOVERIST MANIFESTO with an introduction by author, Will Self was developed, poetically giving voice and raising recovery awareness, whilst putting diverse experience at the heart of the conversation.

We see ourselves as activists and not passive ‘receivers of services’. “We want to shout from the rooftops, speak to the world and affect social change”.

An end project symposium I AM- WE ARE was held at the Manchester School of Art at MMU. It shared some of the artistic outputs, learning and responses from people taking part in the project and featured the opening of the exhibition “I AM Memoirs of Addiction Recovery” profiling the projects final artworks.