Cocooning – Catch a Breath is an immersive and interactive sculptural exhibition arising from a socially engaged art project with artist Catarina Araújo and mental health professionals based in Cork City.
The project, which began in 2021, was designed to understand the impacts of Covid-19 on the mental health sector. Araújo was mentored by mental health nursing lecturer John Goodwin (University College Cork), and Dr Eve Olney, a socially engaged artist, activist, curator, educator and practice-based researcher.
During the research period, there was one word that struck Araújo the most, throughout individual meetings and group conversations with the mental health professionals involved. That word was ‘cocoon’. Cocoon came to be associated as a mode of expression – and also as a state of being that was being imposed on people by the State.
Araújo brought the word and the artwork that was inspired by it to a workshop and invited the group to think about what expressions would illustrate their experiences during Covid-19, and how they might reclaim and reappropriate them in a way that might personally help to cope with the daily routine that merges work with home life. The second thing that struck the artist was the lack of space and time to pause.
Combining these two concepts, a cocoon became a space of transition to the next level, the next chapter, and a moment to pause. It is not a positive or negative thing but simply a transition moment in our lives to move forward. Using this collaboratively constructed description, participants were challenged to imagine and create their own cocoon (small-scale sculpture) that would provide them with what they felt was lacking.
The project evolved through an artistic and ethnographic approach, which involves a humanistic perspective in terms of addressing overlooked needs, and defining a sense of community, connection and solidarity for mental health.
The cocoons are on display at the Lord Mayor’s Pavilion and Cork Public Museum until 22 April 2023, with visitors invited to experience a moment of reflection in a safe space designed with wellbeing and solace in mind.
About Catarina Araújo
Catarina Araújo is a Portuguese Cork-based visual socially engaged artist. She recently completed 15 months of an artist residency with Sample-Studios as part of The Radical Institute Studios of Sanctuary programme for socially engaged artists from an asylum seeker, refugee or migrant background, which focused on cultures of care and the sustainability of socially engaged, collaborative and participatory art practice. Araújo was also the recipient of the Artist in Residency programme, by Waterford Healing Arts Trust, where she developed an art project for the hospital staff.
In 2022 Araújo secured the Project Realization award by the AIC Scheme from Create and the Arts in Context award by Cork City Council. In 2021 she was granted the Agility Award by the Arts Council and a Postgraduate Studio Residency at Sample-Studios. In the same year, she became an associate artist with Graffiti Theatres BEAG Early Years program.
As an artist, she aims to expand the field between art and mental health, where artistic approaches are a central tool to explore new methods to find sustainability in life. Araújo explores psychological and physical well-being, by observing with curiosity the meaning of pausing and play, and how art can help us to incorporate it into our lives.