In order for a society to best take care of itself, it must take care of those who make up the underbelly of unsung heroes
On the seventh of March, an event organised by the Programme in Culture and Enterprise was held at Central Saint Martins to discuss the cultural and political future of wellbeing. Keynote speaker Sophie Howe, the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, opened the event before being joined by Central Saint Martins lecturers John O’Reilly and Alison Green.
Defining wellbeing as being happy, healthy and comfortable, Howe discussed how economy, ecology, and human kindness must intertwine to create “the Wales we want”. Wales, “a small but passionate country”, has been responsible for a number of successful environmental preservation laws, like the plastic bag charge, a policy that has been met with plaudits, leading to its’ spreading across the rest of the United Kingdom. Identifying a desire to broaden Welsh impact further, Howe made pivot of a point around the importance of preparation as she explored the factors that must work unanimously in order to ensure the most efficient development. She proclaimed that everybody is in the same boat, each must pull their own weight in helping prepare now in order to take care of our future generations.
By working collaboratively, and keeping all those due to be affected involved in policy making, we can make decisions that work for 2058 as well as 2018, arguing that the wellbeing of the future can be thoroughly explored now in the pursuit of a better tomorrow.
Next, writer, editor, and professor at Central Saint Martins Dr. John O’Reilly explored the future of wellbeing through the scope of architecture. Focusing specifically on places of education and work, he explained how well-being is complex and interconnected despite a common belief that it is a singular, more simple entity.
A study composed by the University of Salford revealed that stress accounted for 37% of ill-health in working spaces and found that light, temperature, and air quality were important factors in creating an environment that facilitates health and happiness. These statistics in mind, O’Reilly explored several examples of architecture developed in response to the need for healthier learning and working environments, one being Storstrøm, a recently opened maximum security prison in Denmark.
With a focus on rehabilitation, the natural lighting system and university-like layout allows inmates to continue to develop their social and practical skills in a way traditional prisons typically do not. The prison was designed to create an atmosphere that encouraged prisoners to manage themselves in preparation for their eventual release. By exploring the ways in which creativity can be facilitated through spaces, O’Reilly proved how architecture can help people live better.
Closing the discussion was Dr. Alison Green, an art historian, critic and curator who explored the benefits of curating. Similar to O’Reilly, Green explained how critical and creative curating has been used to establish or renew institutions. Within or outside institutions, curatorial activity, like well-being, is varied. Observing the relationship between short term and long term thinking in an art space, Green explored the cost and value of maintaining and keeping versus values of representing and showing.
In 1973, artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles debuted her art performance titled Hartford Wash: Washing, Tracks, Maintenance — Outside and Inside at the Wadsworth Atheneum museum in Hartford, Connecticut. Water and cleaning supplies in tow, Ukeles spent the next eight hours scrubbing the museum floors as attendees walked by, showcasing the often overlooked yet necessary maintenance required to sustain the cleanliness of the space. The purpose was to juxtapose “maintenance” with “development” — the latter being the creative pieces of art that enter the museum and are more often recognised and celebrated.
Applying this idea to well-being, this suggests that in order for a society to best take care of itself, it must take care of those who make up the underbelly of unsung heroes whose contributions to often goes overlooked and underappreciated.
Complex in nature, the future of wellbeing relies on interconnectivity and early preparation. By planning ahead, valuing all members of a community, and recognising the benefits of curation and architecture, the cultural and political future of wellbeing will make for a better society.