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Friday, June 9 • 1:30pm - 1:50pm
HERENOTHERE || Artists' work in Mental Health Methodologies & New Paradigms

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During COVID, the artist Ben Webster-Burr struggled with uncertainty of time, existence, life, death, and overwhelming feelings of a dystopian past, present, and future. LIke so many of us, creative people needed to recalibrate, adjust, find coping mechanisms, and sometimes, find resources and alternatives for both materials and means for creating and presenting artwork and other creative output. Thus HERENOTHERE came to be in fits and starts. Ben found himself in the greatest struggle in his 50 plus years of life on this planet.

This paper will review Ben's journey, and the journeys of other artists in a variety of genres -- it will delve into the lives of musicians, poets, artists, and writers. It will explore case studies of a young fledgling artist, an emerging artist, and an established artist who found ways to be in a world where existence and time itself were dislocated and dissolved.
Out of this brief rift in the human experience on earth, Ben created a non-linear narrative; designed objects; sculptures; installations; video shorts; photographs; drawings; ink prints; and a set of narrative passages that were hyperlinked across social media platforms. Some of these works appeared in a virtual gallery in Chelsea’s art district, on display at Towhee Co. / JC Fab Lab at Mana Contemporary in Jersey City, NJ; in diary entries, and more. During this creative endeavor, Ben created some works in traditional forms, including artifacts produced for use in photos, videos, and gifs. But he also conceived of a mental health tool – a wearable called Locus. This ‘watch’ was fully conceived and was developed through a traditional product development process… something that Ben is familiar with, but, at once, a process that he does not typically use for art work.

What is Locus? That will be talked about in detail in this paper. But essentially, it amounts to a self-contained wearable biofeedback device. The paper will elaborate on Locus' use cases, functionality, and purpose. Locus is at once high-tech, practical, low-tech, low-bandwidth, privacy (HIPPA) compliant, and latency-independent. Versions planned include luxury, standard, and DIY models.

This paper will put this all into a context of mental health resources and needs for the general public. What is the need for such a device? How might Locus fit into existing paradigms and models for therapy (art therapy, talk therapy, freudian analysis, etc.) and why is it vital that such a ‘product’ should be developed? And if not Locus, then there must be something that can serve those who are desperately in need of mental health therapies in contemporary settings, and currently relevant paradigms. The paper will provide arguments as to why we need a device or means for inexpensive and accessible answers to these urgent human needs, both in the US and internationally.


Ben Webster-Burr

Artist in Residence, Towhee Co. / JC Fab Lab

Friday June 9, 2023 1:30pm - 1:50pm EDT
PS 308 (Design Center)
  Papers & Talks