The Rescripting Initiative
This webpage is created for potential partners and supporters of The Rescripting Initiative (RI) - an interdisciplinary art project created by Al Hopwood. In the text below there is a brief introduction to the initiative and useful information about a research residency co-hosted by the department of psychology at the University of Westminster and the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience at Maastricht University. Information about past projects by Al Hopwood can be found via the navigation bar at the top of this page and his CV can be found here. A support letter from Martin Clark, director of Camden Art Centre can be found here. To navigate back to this overview please relink to this page.
Temporary Chromakey Memorial 3/6. 2021. Al Hopwood. Commissioned by Wellcome Collection.
Research and Development - An Artist Residency
The Rescripting Initiative (RI) is an interdisciplinary art project created by Al Hopwood, that explores the psychological role of the imaginary in mental health. Developed in collaboration with psychologists and the public, the project will explore the crucial role our imaginations play in our daily lives. The RI will challenge mental health myths and use a range of creative strategies to turn developments from contemporary psychology towards the public in innovative ways.
In the first Rescripting Initiative project Hopwood will respond creatively to the therapeutic technique ‘Imagery Rescripting’ (ImRs), during a year-long residency co-hosted by Professor Catherine Loveday at the University of Westminster (UoW) and Professor Henry Otgaar at Maastricht University (MU).
In ImRs therapists encourage patients suffering with intrusive memories to reimagine (or ‘rescript’) the damaging recollection. The rescripting can be a simple reconfiguration of the mental imagery associated with the experience: for example, the chain of events and key protagonists can be changed. Alternatively, a fantastical new narrative can be conceived – one that helps to meet some of the unfulfilled needs of the patient.
Patients should be empowered by the therapist to tell a different story about the experience. They must be fully aware that the new version of events is not to be literally believed, but one that is instead designed to bring change through the imagining of a different, more positive scenario. ImRs has shown promising results in scientific psychology studies, with a 2017 meta-analysis indicating “large effects” on those tested.
Erased UFOs: A collection of found UFO images with all evidence of the UFOs removed, presented in 242 used frames. 2012-2014. Al Hopwood.
Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh as part of the False Memory Archive touring exhibition.
Research and the Artist-Scientist Collaboration
During the residency Hopwood will observe clinical and cognitive research related to ImRs. He will have access to the research community in the psychology departments at both MU and UoW, including informal conversations, lectures, conferences, experiments, publications, seminars, and archives. Loveday and Otgaar will also introduce Hopwood to a network of researchers working on ImRs (and associated areas of research) in other institutions.
Throughout the residency Hopwood will be based in the co-working space in the psychology department at UoW. This will be enhanced by support from CREAM the leading interdisciplinary arts research unit at UoW, that will be used to host events and assist in the production of new work. This activity will be complimented by a series of research trips to Maastricht University, where Hopwood will work closely with Otgaar and colleagues to observe, and where possible, participate in experiments related to ImRs. This research will inspire a new series of artworks made by Hopwood that will be exhibited in a future project.
Hopwood has an extensive track record of working with such a methodology. Similar residencies led to his landmark international touring project False Memory Archive and his curatorial project Smoke and Mirrors: The Psychology of Magic at Wellcome Collection.
Smoke and Mirrors: The Psychology of Magic. Wellcome Collection. 2019. Section 1: The Medium. Curated by Al Hopwood and Honor Beddard.
Install shot by Thomas Farnetti
The Creation of New Artworks - a starting point
A webpage will be created by Hopwood at the start of the residency that will collect rescripted memories submitted by the public. Participants will be invited to anonymously share a memory they would like to change. They will then be asked to imagine a new “rescripted" version of that memory. The website will also provide information on the residency's progress, showcasing Hopwood's works alongside relevant links and research.
Hopwood will use contributions to the website as a starting point for a new series of artworks. During the submission process, contributors will be informed that a small selection of rescripted memories will be visualised by Hopwood and then subsequently gifted to them. A draft version of the webpage outlining the premise can be accessed here.
Al Hopwood will use methodologies developed in his WITH TV project as a starting point for the visualisation process. In WITH TV individuals commission Hopwood to create storyboard drawings that fictionalise an experience from their past. Launched towards the end of 2021, the project reflects on how visual culture influences the way we remember, while highlighting the reconstructive nature of memory. During the residency this approach will be developed and expanded beyond storyboarding. Hopwood will use drawing, sculpture, performance, digital VR / AR technology, audio and moving image to push the creative limits of the method into new territories.
Other works will respond to the diverse research activities of both host institutions that relate to the way our creative imaginations intersect with reality. For example, Prof. Loveday’s extensive research has included many eclectic topics; including research on how autobiographical memories are central to our identity and social functioning, how the capacity to remember and imagine shapes our emotional health, why flexibility of autobiographical memory has adaptive and evolutionary benefits, and why some people are more psychologically vulnerable to online misinformation. Reflecting such activity creatively will help to engage audiences in a wider discussion, while retaining research into ImRs as a key focus.
Integration of Creative Approach into Psychology Experiments
Otgaar will investigate how to integrate Hopwood’s visualisations of rescripted memories into psychology experiments on ImRs. There is currently limited research into the role that physical imagery or moving images could play in helping to rescript an aversive memory – to date studies have focussed on changing mental imagery related to the experience. Such interdisciplinary activity is an exciting prospect and is an area that will be tested in line with ethical guidelines.
WITH TV #03: The Intervention. 2021. Digital graphite on Permajet Heritage 310gsm. Al Hopwood.
Residency Events and Workshops
Beyond the walls of the host academic institutions, it is a key priority for the artist to introduce research relating to ImRs to the public through a series of events and workshops that punctuate the residency. Hopwood will develop a creative workshop where participants can create their own visualisations of rescripted memories and will curate events that introduce key researchers to the public. Hopwood will collaborate with partners to create workshops and events, and the final design of the activity will be defined by residency findings. By the end of the residency Hopwood will have secured gallery partnerships for a future exhibition of the artworks and developed a 5 year strategy for developing the project.
Through such a methodology Hopwood will create during the residency:
A website that collects rescripted memories submitted by the public and charts the progress of the residency.
A new series of artworks that visualise rescripted memories submitted by the public.
Artworks that respond to research carried out during the residency.
Creative contributions to the design of new psychology experiments.
A minimum of three ‘in person’ and live-streamed public events.
An exhibition proposal for the RI that secures future gallery and museum partnerships.
A five year strategy for the RI.
New partnerships with Creative Health organisations across the UK.
WITH solutions #61 (Thinking Time), Fomona. 2019. Al Hopwood. Commissioned by Museum of Old and New Art (Mona), Tasmania.
Why Rescripting? Why Now?
The representation of traumatic experiences is ubiquitous in contemporary culture. In TV, film and gaming we consume stories of violence, murder, abuse, loss and grief as entertainment, on social media we respond to heartrending, confessional, declarative representations of personal trauma, in the 24 hour news cycle we daily witness the most tragic aspects of our shared human experience and in music and art we’re often drawn to artists who have suffered meaningfully for their work. Why this fetishisation of tragedy is *appealing* is a complex question that Hopwood has long explored in his work.
Psychology provides some answers. It tells us that we’re more likely to attend to negative events and information than positive information or events. This negativity bias is rooted in our evolution - quickly evaluating threat has been a crucial part of our development . We’re also programmed as humans to be empathetic - it’s a vital part of what makes us social animals. Watching disasters and consuming trauma entertainment stimulates this empathy in safe spaces where we can confront our fears of death, pain, despair, degradation and annihilation without them actually happening to us. But is there a dark side to this continual consumption of tragedy? Studies have indicated that the more similar viewers are to the victims, the more likely they are experience anxiety, fear, vicarious trauma and physical complaints as a result of such exposure . Our fight or flight response backfires as our empathy overloads.
In real life, when an actual trauma is experienced we respond individually in different ways. Some of us suffer for a while and then recover, while many struggle for years with intrusive memories of the aversive event. What Imagery Rescripting offers to these victims is an opportunity to imagine a different story about their traumatic experience. One which acknowledges the deep pain and fear associated with the event, but then tries to lessen its impact by actively rescripting a different, more positive version of the experience.
This exercise in creative imagination not only has fascinating and heartening applications in a therapeutic setting. It also has a wider resonance that Hopwood will explore throughout the Rescripting Initiative as it challenges assumptions about what makes a 'good' story. The fictions that emerge from ImRs do the opposite of what stories are meant to do because the pivotal traumatic focal point of the narrative is consciously removed or reworked. By visualising these stories Hopwood is not only drawing our attention to a little known and empowering mental health treatment and the cognitive link between imagination and memory. He is also asking us to consider the wider social and psychological impact of how trauma narratives are represented in visual culture.
Other key questions Hopwood will ask in the project:
How can artists respond to psychological research in ways that enhances the conceptual rigour, aesthetic and critical credibility of the artwork?
What are the ethical limits of transposing or fictionalising a real-life experience for a cultural project?
How can the rescripting initiative develop in the future as a project that meaningfully contributes to both visual art and the public understanding of key issues relating to mental health?
How can our creative imaginations be harnessed to improve wellbeing?
How does communicating research from psychology impact the public?
Left: Magician Michael Vincent performs at Smoke and Mirrors as part of the live programme. (2019).
Right: Researcher / Performer Naomi Paxton performs in the reading room at Wellcome Collection as part of the Smoke and Mirrors live programme. (2019).
Photos: Steven Pocock.
Using interdisciplinary initiatives like Forensic Architecture as a touchstone, the RI will use cutting edge research from psychology as a starting point for projects that advance, expand and test the limits of artistic endeavour. The RI will explore the cathartic and curative potential of the imaginary, while also highlighting how it can go awry and negatively impact our mental health.
The aim is to engage the public in psychological research that is empowering and often hidden from view. The Rescripting Initiative believes that such research encourages useful self-reflection and metacognition (thinking about our own ways of thinking), while helping us to reflect critically on our contemporary moment. The RI will also propose how creative and artistic strategies can meaningfully contribute to the progression of mental health research and future clinical applications.
 Morina, Nexhmedin & Lancee, Jaap & Arntz, Arnoud. (2017). Imagery rescripting as a clinical intervention for aversive memories: A meta-analysis. Journal of Behaviour Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. 55. 6-15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27855298/.
 Vaish, A., Grossmann, T., & Woodward, A. (2008). Not all emotions are created equal: The negativity bias in social-emotional development. Psychological Bulletin, 134(3), 383–403. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.134.3.383
 Michael W. Otto, Aude Henin, Dina R. Hirshfeld-Becker, Mark H. Pollack, Joseph Biederman, Jerrold F. Rosenbaum. (2007). Posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms following media exposure to tragic events: Impact of 9/11 on children at risk for anxiety disorders, Journal of Anxiety Disorders, Volume 21, Issue 7, Pages 888-902, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.janxdis.2006.10.008.