Tuesday, February 2, 2010

What keeps me up at night

Mental illness. Dreams of mummies. Diagnosis diabetes. The Exhibits.

For those who missed early posting and introductions, it's Vivian in Michigan, a former adwriter at Liggett, colleague, friend and devotee of Ann Hogsett.

After Morning Pages, Artist Dates and other ventures having to do with bicycles and book collections, what I do on a daily basis is work on concepts and content for life science exhibits at the Detroit Science Center. Most exhibits are targeted to grades 4 through 8, so by design, content must be simple. Playful. Interactive. Interpretive. Light reading.

In a walk-thru the museum today, I could point to nearly 30 exhibits where I've had a direct hand in developing the design concept and text. From Talking Couch Potatoes, to a Rappin' Refrigerator, from a traveling exhibit on Diabetes to the life and science of Accidental Mummies of Guanajuato, it's been wild and crazy work. Firing on all cylinders at times. And hair-pulling otherwise. I'm grayer (and balder), but happier. Not a bad gig for an old English major and long time copywriter.

Now about my Mental Illness: in a nutshell my assignment is as follows (in funderspeak): "to research and develop the content for an exhibit exploring the nature, the science and stigma of mental illness, its spectrum of disabilities, and what strategies, medications and healthy habits can be deployed to help those living with mental illness cope.

Still working out the details. Ya think??!

So far I've arrived at the metaphor of a giant maze (50x50 feet) housing a 15 foot luminescent walk-thru brain sculpture. Chambers surrounding the Big Brain include a mirror maze (in which visitors will Search for Self, a deep blue area where Depression is Real and bipolar disorder Storms the Mind, a hyper area exploring ADHD, autism spectrum and epilepsy, and High Tension area touching upon OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorders, anxiety, phobias and eating disorders.

Coming up for air. . . are you there?

Fellow wayfarers, as I understand, our pathway this week is exploring the corners of the maze, so to speak. Seeking synchronicity in what comes our way. This may be an imposition on your creative energies, but just for the fun of it, I invite you to daydream, imagine and play along with me. . .

Where exactly does the brain end and the mind begin? What is mental illness anyway, and who says? What have you read, what have you experienced, where have you ventured that would inform the topic of mental wellness, so illusive and personal, an imprecise science, such a presumption that we can wrap it up in neat bows for visitors at a museum -- how indeed, and what do you think?

For starters, I'm puzzling and stumbling over the name of the exhibit, the one-two punch of a title, the power words that capture the complexity and ambiguity of the subject. Shades of Grey was a leading candidate, then got overturned by BrainStorm. Or how 'bout MindStorm: Brain Under Fire.

Any thoughts? All welcome. And do tell, do share: what are you working on?


  1. You have the best photos! AND what a rich and exciting post! Plus, you are so generous to invite us to play in your awesome (sorry, ick, I know, but it so IS.) game. Thanks for posting, Viv. I'm trying to route people past my rant about reading deprivation week to here. It's so great.

  2. I think you should just call it "Crazy"! Very un-PC