A new temporary exhibition exploring PTSD has opened at Aldershot Military Museum from 3rd March to 23rd March 2023.
BATTLE:CRY is an immersive project that aims to expand the knowledge and understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in a novel, multidimensional way. It is presented by Lynn Hamilton (medical and creative writer), Jennie Jewitt-Harris (fine artist), and Oliver Jewitt-Harris (sound designer). BATTLE:CRY features extracts from Lynn’s collection of short stories, Stepping out of the Shadows, together with a series of paintings and an installation artwork Postcards from My Past by Jennie and Sleepless Dreams, sound artwork by Oliver, that respond to the research into the portrayal of PTSD and the multiple characters portrayed in the stories.
The exhibition is an artistic response to Lynn’s collection of short stories launched on Kindle in October 2022. The stories in Stepping out of the Shadows span almost a century and take the reader beyond the current stereotypical portrayals of PTSD and to offer a broader, more holistic picture of what it means to be affected by trauma. By using different perspectives – that of a friend, a mother, a sister and wife – they also set out to dismantle some of the myths and misperceptions
around PTSD that drive stigma. In the title story, an elderly man’s war-time memories are re-ignited by his neighbour’s chain-smoking. In Bare Bones, a lonely ghost writer struggles to move beyond cliché and stereotype to understand his friend’s illness, and in Enough, a wife decides she’s had enough, it’s time for life to change.
According to Lynn, “We commonly see the ‘broken hero’ stereotype in fiction and drama. PTSD sits in the shadows, the ill-explained trigger of outbreaks of anger or violence. The broader impact on family or friends is often absent, and rarely are there any insights into how PTSD can be treated or what the path to recovery might look like. In my PhD research, I wanted to see if fiction could be used to dismantle these negative stereotypes and build greater empathy and understanding towards those experiencing PTSD”.
The installation, Postcards From My Past, reflects the transient and often repetitive nature of the ‘action replays’ experienced with PTSD. Each postcard represents the memories that sit, suspended and unprocessed in the brain’s neural network. The postcards are made of recycled packaging and consist of painted and collaged images related to war-time experience. Some are triggered by everyday experiences such as a day at the beach, a bicycle ride, or just the smell of a certain cigarette;
while others are linked to the often confusing and intrusive flashbacks that that can be common in PTSD.
Jennie said, “Postcards From My Past is a response to Lynn’s writing and is in honour of the many brave soldiers whose images appear in the postcards, those who fought alongside them, and all the photographers who risked so much for the poignant, arresting images that form the basis for the “memories” depicted.”
Sleepless Dreams explores how certain sounds can be linked to their experience of a traumatic event for those with PTSD. These noises can trigger the ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ response and re-create the fear and anxiety felt at the time. The reactions to sounds can include an exaggerated startle response, a fear of certain sounds, and a difficulty in tolerating a sound at a level that would be fine for people unaffected by trauma. In the sound artwork, everyday sounds are interrupted by those associated with traumatic memory or presented in a way that demonstrates the link between managing everyday life and coping with traumatic memories. The work goes beyond the stereotypical triggers we encounter in books and in films and instead focuses on the impact of sound associated with everyday events that people affected by PTSD have to navigate every day.
Extracts from Stepping out the Shadows (published here) and a small installation of Postcards from my Past are on display at Aldershot Military Museum from 3rd March to 23rd March 2023. Sleepless Dreams can be seen on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UM1vTrtms4g
BATTLE:CRY is supported by the University for the Creative Arts and Combat Stress, the UK’s leading charity for veterans’ mental health. Proceeds from the sale of the e-version of Stepping out of the Shadows are going to Combat Stress.