ART, STROKE, SCIENCE & THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT
Mark Ware Multimedia Artist
BA (Hons) Fine Art & Film Theory (1st), Northumbria University
Master of Fine Arts, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Visiting Scientist, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, University of Sussex
Associate Member, The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, Staffordshire University
Founder and CEO of the THE WAVELENGTH PROJECT charity (Registered Charity Number 1173281)
‘Ware and his collaborators aren’t fusing science and art so much as evolving an entirely new way of working.’ – New Scientist July 2016
Mark Ware statement
‘I’m an artist whose work and life can be split into two distinct periods. Until the age of 39 I had a successful career as a multimedia fine artist, commercial videographer and professional photographer. Then, during 1996, I had a severe stroke that transported me into a new world. Since that time I’ve focused my art on exploring my altered subjective experiences caused by my brain injury, and how disability affects perception of self. Over recent years, this has involved a variety of art collaborations with users of the CEDA disability charity in Exeter.
Although I didn’t welcome my stroke, in many ways I’m incredibly grateful it happened. It has shown me profound insights into life, and the way we navigate and negotiate the world around us. I now view my past life (before my stroke) as a period when I became an unreliable witness and an unreliable narrator of my own life. In retrospect, I feel that I was simply looking in the wrong direction.
One of my greatest realisations during my 2nd life concerns a subject that affects us all – how the natural environment can be of enormous benefit to our health and wellbeing. Since 2014, this has led to ongoing Arts Council England supported art/science collaborations with scientists at the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science (University of Sussex), and psychologists at the School of Health, Science and Wellbeing (Staffordshire University).
Currently, there is an increasing awareness of how the natural environment can be of benefit to us. This awareness is influencing not only our lifestyles, but even the way we think about the design of the built environment that most of us engage with on a daily basis. As a professional artist with over 40 years’ experience, I’m convinced that an understanding of art and ‘art language’ can play an important role in research into how nature affects us. Influenced by my experience of stroke and disability, and through my collaborations with scientists, I’m seeking to find new ways of taking nature to people who:
- find access to nature difficult due to a wide range of physical or cognitive barriers or socio-economic reasons
- work in environments that lack natural stimuli
- experience long-term stays in sensory-deprived environments, such as hospitals, care homes, prisons and even space
I was once asked what I feel is the most important lesson my stroke has taught me. In reply, I explained that the discrimination I’ve experience since being disabled has made me understand the importance of familiarity. From the moment we’re born, we strive to become familiar with, and understand, people and the world around us. The more information we gather, the better informed we are, and the happier we are.
Some people say that ‘familiarity breeds contempt’. Stroke has taught me that familiarity needn’t breed contempt, but rather, can lead to what US Senator J William Fulbright described as ‘the inevitable acquisition of empathy’. An understanding of the value of familiarity is now behind all my art, including my art/science collaborations.
My nature inspired art/science collaborations have received wide-spread recognition and have involved the publication of a science paper, nationwide art exhibitions that included public engagement activities, and ongoing science/art investigations. As a result of this work, in 2016 I was awarded the title of Honorary Research Fellow at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (University of Brighton & University of Sussex) where I was later given the title of Visiting Scientist in February 2021. In 2017 I was invited to be an Associate Member at The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research (Staffordshire University).
Mark Ware’s TEDxFulbrightGlasgow 2019 talk, organised by the US-UK Fulbright Commission. Titled, ‘Stroke: the loss and recovery of familiarity’. Familiarity may sometimes breed contempt, but it can also lead to empathy and greater understanding. In this talk, Mark Ware argues that we are hard-wired to seek familiarity. Following his stroke at the age of 39, Mark was forced to familiarise himself with the daily rhythms of life again, finding in his work and life that the familiar was his pathway to recovery and his second stage of life.
‘Altered subjective experiences caused by changes in mind and body due to stroke’ Science Stroke Art 2014 Manchester Town Hall, organised by the Stroke Association in partnership with the University of Manchester. In this talk Mark illustrates how his art has been affected by stroke.
Nature Scientific Reports (‘Mind-wandering and alterations to default mode network connectivity when listening to naturalistic versus artificial sound’)
Articles about Mark’s art/science activities can be found at:
Pulse Magazine (‘It’s true – the sounds of nature really do help us relax’)
New Scientist (‘Missing the natural world? Just add multimedia’)
Arts Council England (‘Can art make us feel better?’)
The Psychologist (‘Reflecting nature’)
“Mark is an inspiration to us all and an important voice that deserves to be and should be heard. He is truly an artist for the 21st century” – Steven Brown, Royal Exchange Theatre Company, Manchester.
All text and images on this website copyright Mark Ware unless otherwise stated.