Are you free to determine your own actions?
About the work
Place: Department for International Trade, Old Admiralty Building
'Some questions about us' was originally commissioned by Bethlem Gallery and installed within the perimeter of the Bethlem Royal Hospital in Beckenham, south east London, where it was viewable from the street. The artwork was produced following time that the artist, Mark Titchner, spent working with the team on the Mental Health and Justice Project funded by the Wellcome Trust, which focuses on the ethical, legal and medical issues around the assessment of mental capacity.
A series of questions around mental capacity and personal freedom – in relation to the healthcare system and the state more widely – are printed onto mirrored placards that reflect the viewer and their direct surroundings. The direct language challenges viewers to consider their own answers and assumptions in relation to these forthright but complex questions.
While the work was installed at the Bethlem Royal Hospital, the placards were anonymously spray-painted with the letters ‘RIP SENI’. Seni was Olaseni Lewis, a young black man who had been a patient at the hospital and died after being subjected to a prolonged physical restraint by police officers in 2010. The Lewis family campaigned for a change to UK law, in order to prevent unnecessary and excessive restraint in mental health units, and this was passed as the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Act 2018.
Director Daisy Ifama’s documentary 'RIP SENI', which records conversations about race, mental health and deaths in custody, and was made following the graffiti of this artwork, is available to watch on The Guardian website.
About the artist
Mark Titchner was born in Luton, Bedfordshire. He studied at the Hertfordshire College of Art and Design (1991–92) and at Central St Martins College, London (1992– 95). Titchner was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2006 and exhibited work at the Venice Biennale in 2007. Focusing on an exploration of words and language, in recent years much of his production has been based in the public realm both in the UK and internationally. These public works are often created from extended group activities or collaborations. His work is held in the permanent collections of The Arts Council, British Council, South London Gallery, and Tate.