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The House of Emotions: breaking taboos and lowering barriers

David Bade met cliente Kim en Therapeute Brigitte tijdens de sessies bij Mondriaan GGZ

At the end of August, the House of Emotions will be on the Cultura Nova festival square for a week. In this collaborative project by Mondriaan, Cultura Nova festival and SCHUNCK Museum, artist David Bade builds a bridge between art and mental health care.  

David Bade is a Dutch sculptor, installation artist, painter and draughtsman with a considerable track record. In 2006, together with Tirzo Martha, he founded the Instituto Buena Bista (IBB) in Curaçao, which organises cultural projects and provides training opportunities for local artists. In 2013, Bade started the project 'David Bade draws down Heerlen' together with SCHUNCK. In this series, he creates extraordinary group portraits in and about Heerlen.

Drawing Heerlen

The portraits from this series will be included in the city's art collection, immortalising the city's people. However, the series not only leads to art, but also to encounters. For Bade, it also has a social aspect. "Art touches people, but also challenges them to make their own (again). I believe you can handle life better if you use your creativity, and not just consume," he says. So too in his latest project within this series, in 2022. "We were looking for a partner for the group portrait, and soon ended up with Mondriaan. I have a great affinity with this target group, also because of the various social projects I am involved in. Early on in my career, I asked myself the question: what else can I achieve with my art? How can I add something to the everyday? That is why I am always looking for groups and aspects in society that need extra attention."

Hello Anxiety

The collaboration with Mondriaan in 2022 led to the work 'Hello Anxiety', in which Bade portrayed not only clients of Mondriaan, but also therapists, cleaners, and many others who have a role at the organisation. "The clients didn't feel like clients for a while. They were seen as part of the club, and had an equal role in relation to the rest. This visibly did them good. It was a powerful encounter that tasted like more. It was a shame to let go of the relationship we had built up, thought not only me, but also SCHUNCK. So we put our heads together and came up with what has now become the House of Emotions," says Bade.

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David Bade in Mondriaan GGZ voor het werk 'Hallo Angst'

The House of Emotions is a pavilion cum mini museum cum studio that will be on display during the Cultura Nova festival in Heerlen. It will be a nice raw space, in which making will continue throughout the week. Visitors are invited to join in too. There will be a special 'making unit' for that purpose. As the name suggests, the pavilion revolves entirely around emotions. Bade: "In psychiatry, everything revolves around feelings, especially the four Bs: scared, happy, sad and angry. There are four rooms in the house, which are decorated with all kinds of works related to each theme. Some works were already there, some were made especially for this project. But all by clients of Mondriaan."


The process with Mondriaan started six months ago, with discussions taking place mostly in the first months, and a lot of work being done recently. "In spring, we had a creative week, where I joined different groups, for example. I was very impressed by the approach from the mental health services, but especially by the clients and the extent to which they expressed their vulnerability. By attending a working session with a group of outpatients, I only realised how close 'short-circuiting' is for everyone. The dividing line between healthy, or 'normal', and 'non-normal', is not really there. That's another thing we want to address with the House of Emotions: mental health care could be destigmatised even more."

The power of making something

This is also the opinion of Brigitte Rademakers, visual therapist at Mondriaan. She works for various departments and target groups, such as people recovering from depression, trauma or addiction. "Visual therapy is an experiential therapy in which each person gives form to materials such as pencil, paint and clay in their unique way. In acting, strengths, as well as perceived problems, become visible and tangible in a safe way. Besides 'making', the debriefing is also important: 'How did you work?' 'What did you experience in the process?'. By looking at the work together from a distance and evaluating the experiences, we dwell on the underlying feelings and thoughts," Brigitte says.

Collage Bade Mondriaan

From working with David Bade last year, he proved good at building a bridge between art and visual therapy. "He is very approachable, and engages very openly but at the same time respectfully," Brigitte says. "You really see that art connects when you work together on such a bigger picture. Barriers fall away, and thresholds are lowered. That is also the power of visual therapy. People surprise themselves."

Contact with people

An awful lot of clients participate in the House of Emotions, from the elderly to children and adults; it veers throughout Mondriaan. One such client is Paul (64). He once worked as a primary school teacher, and art has always had a special meaning for him. For instance, he was always most excited by the drawing lessons he gave to his students. Paul came into contact with visual therapy at Mondriaan GGZ about two years ago. Although he had been struggling with bipolar disorder for a long time, he decided at the time, in consultation with his therapist, that he was ready for a new impulse. He already knew Mondriaan from his role as a contact for association Plusminus. "I get tailor-made therapy here, but above all I get back in touch with people. When David Bade came here to introduce his project, I was immediately enthusiastic. It contributes to my need for structure, but at the same time I find it very meaningful and taboo-breaking," says Paul. "When I was in Heerlen to talk about the project with other participants, and I spoke very openly about my bipolarity, the first reaction I got was: 'ah, you too?' As it turned out, another participant recognised herself in my story. That just goes to show that if you are open about it, you soon come across someone struggling with something similar."

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Paul, tijdens een van de Bade-sessies in Mondriaan

Pouring out energy

Another participant in the project is Kim (20). Her visual therapy programme started about five months ago at Mondriaan, and for her, too, it is proving to be a welcome addition. "I find it hard to talk about emotions, so I prefer to translate that into art. I felt empty for a long time, but during this form of therapy I experienced feeling again for the first time in a long time. I have always drawn a lot, and now I like to work with ecoline. It's a kind of liquid ink. I can throw it around nicely - that way I literally pour out my energy when I have no words," she says.

Kim finds it important to take part in the project, on the one hand to work on emotions - literally and figuratively - and on the other hand to collaborate with, and look at the work of, others. But actually also because everything around art excites her. For the pavilion, she is now working on three-dimensional masks, showing different emotions. She shows a large mask with a neutral face. "This symbolises myself, and a lot of people I think. We put on our neutral mask, while inside there is everything going on." Asked what she hopes the project will achieve, she replied, "For me, the goal has already been achieved, working on this with so many people together. I've never experienced that togetherness before - everyone has something, but now it doesn't matter. That's nice to see."

The House of Emotions can be visited from 26 August to 3 September on the festival square of Cultura Nova in Heerlen. See the entire SCHUNCK programma during Cultura Nova.