J a n e t M c E w a n

Gaslighting

Freedom from Torture (previously know as The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture) is a British registered charity which solely treats torture survivors. Since it was established in 1985, over 50,000 people have been referred to the organisation for help. Freedom from Torture provides medical and psychological documentation of torture, a range of therapies, including psychotherapy, individual and family counseling, physiotherapy andcomplementary therapies and group work as well as practical advice and support. It trains health professionals and others throughout the UK to work with torture survivors.
A key area of Freedom from Torture's work is educating the public and decision makers about torture and its consequences, and advocate for torture survivors with the aim of keeping this issue on the national agenda.

GASLIGHTING was produced in association with the West Cornwall Freedom from Torture Supporters Group, and one of the aims of this programme was to raise awareness about the work of this British charity.

GASLIGHTING was a week long programme of events including a group exhibition with contributions from invited artists based near and far, screenings, presentations and talks.

The launch weekend overlapped with the Murdoch Festival in Redruth, on Sat 15th June, which celebrates the town’s most famous citizen William Murdoch( 1754-1839), the father of the modern gas industry. Murdoch House, Redruth, was the first building in the world to be illuminated by piped gaslight, and was the venue for a programme of evening talks and film screenings 17-19 June.

The theme ‘gaslighting’ references a particular form of torture which has been described as ‘an insidious set of psychological manipulations that undermine the mental stability of its victims’ (Welch 2009). The term ‘gaslighting’ is derived from a 1938 play called Gas Light written by Patrick Hamilton, which was adapted for film in 1940 in the UK and 1944 in the US. The plot involved a husband who, in an attempt to convince his wife she is going insane, insists that she is imagining things that are really happening, such as the gas lights in the house dimming. The aim of gaslighting is to undermine the victims’ trust in one’s own sense of reality, in order to make them vulnerable to manipulation and unable to perceive and respond independently to the world around them.

Our intention to use ‘gaslighting’ as the theme for this project was to suggest how the work of Freedom from Torture has pertinence beyond the borders of the countries we usually associate with human rights violations. The focus was on complexities of power relations played out in different cultural contexts and how they impact on everyday lives through inflicting pain and suffering, be it physical or psychological, or through manipulating reality in such a way that deeply disturbing actions are considered rational.

As curators of this project our struggle was to present works without aestheticizing and/or fetishizing violence and injustice. At the same time we have called artists to use their aesthetic languages and their art to direct our attention to the ideologies behind, and the impacts of, the use of torture.

Crucially, this project asserted that torture in any form can NEVER be justified. (JMcE & MTC 2013)

Works cited:
Cukor, G., 1944. Gaslight, MGM.
Dickinson, T., 1952. Gaslight,
Hamilton, P., 1975. Gaslight: A Victorian Thriller in Three Acts New impression. Constable.
Welch, Bryant (2008) ‘State of Confusion: Assault on the American Mind’ in Psychologist-Psychoanalyst, the newsletter of the
Division of Psychoanalysis, Vol. XXVIII, No. 3 (Summer 2008), pp. 6-10

Venues
•Cornwall Media Resource (CMR), Royal Circus Buildings, Back Lane West, Redruth, Cornwall TR15 2BT, UK
•Empty retail premises :Former Arts & Graphics Shop, Fore Street, Redruth, Cornwall (Courtesy Percy Williams)
•Murdoch House, Cross St, Redruth, Cornwall TR15 2BU

Produced in association with West Cornwall Freedom from Torture Supporters Group, and with support from LUX Artists' Moving Image, Falmouth University and Percy Williams. CMR has waived all hire charges for this programme.

For full programme details http://gaslightingfft.tumblr.com