A cocoon evokes warmth, a safe haven, a nurturing space. Visual socially engaged artist Catarina Araújo designed her first arts and health project in 2021 with mental health professionals in Cork to explore their experiences of Covid-19. The group decided they wanted to reclaim the word ‘cocoon’ which during the lockdowns became a state of being imposed on people. Participants created their own inner sanctums, large-scale installations where visitors could experience a moment of reflection in a safe space.

The need for time and space to pause, to take stock, reverberated throughout the project, which came to be known as Cocooning: Catch a Breath, and has informed Catarina’s reflection, Let’s Pause, funded by the artsandhealth.ie emerging artist bursary 2023. Catarina’s curiosity about people and how they react to life experiences has shaped her art practice, and she is particularly interested in studying the impact of burnout on society. But in carving out moments for pause and play in her work with communities, she was aware that she too needed time to reconnect and nurture herself.

The bursary afforded Catarina an opportunity to press pause and embark on a fresh phase of self-discovery as an artist. The time would become a time for play, for reading, for making new connections. She considers what she has learnt from Cocooning: Catch a Breath, and how the project might evolve to embrace other communities. She thinks about what she is trying to do through her practice and sometimes ‘nothing makes sense’. What will her next steps be and who will she take them with?

I can see a cocoon as a safe space for refugees, for outpatients and inpatients in a hospital setting, students in a school and their teachers. I have come to realize that a cocoon can be everything we need because it doesn’t require us to do anything, yet everything is possible inside it.

Catarina’s creative approach to her reflection – incorporating notebook jottings, inspiration, reading material, and quotes – mirrors the playfulness she is bringing to her own practice. The reader is invited into a raw, inquisitive space, where potential future paths are opened up for the artist.

I think this is the cocoon model… A model that offers deep listening for people who need to be heard and seen and that allows them to explore what they need to explore with the support of their community.

The artsandhealth.ie emerging artist bursary affords time and space for an early career artist to reflect on their arts and health practice. The 2023 bursary was funded by the HSE and the Arts Council.


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