A REGULAR OLD WATCH DOG, OR, YOU PUSH YOUR CRITIQUE LIKE A LOG INTO THE FURNACE
Exhibition Text, "long pause," Robert Anthony O'Halloran at Bunker 2, 2017
I received your contact information from (i), who has been my primary contact for this study (ii).
I completed the 3-hour intake screening last week and was informed shortly after that I had been deemed ineligible to participate. I take no issue with this; I understand and respect that specific criteria need to be met in order for the conditions of a study to be regarded as stable enough to produce reliable outcomes.
It wasn't the decision to exclude me from the study but instead the way conducted himself both in the session as well as in the correspondence after the fact that I take issue with and is the reason for this letter. wrote, “Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns” so I took the opportunity to inquire.
He wrote me back:
"We exclude participants who have any diagnosis of a mental health condition that may still be current."
As someone with a (iii) degree in (iv), I wanted to inform you how taken aback I was by the blatant shame and stigma that this particular communication casts on me, especially as a trauma survivor (v). It is an irresponsible and reckless sentence thinly veiled by obscurantist professionalism.
My sister died in a violent accident in 2010, which I witnessed. Though I saw a counsellor for several years with regards to it (vi), that particular period of my rehabilitation has long since come to a close. I haven't had anyone ask if I “am okay" (vii) (in that wearisome way people do (viii)) for many years. ’s response functioned as that kind of suggestion, that something about my behaviour was (and ostensibly is) overt enough to suggest mental instability.
I was never informed beforehand that the intake session would involve deep, probing questions (ix) into my mental health and other personal matters. That this was not stated beforehand is deeply concerning. I likely would not have pursued this study had I known this discussion would resemble the one that took place.
Additionally, seemed very obviously uncomfortable throughout our conversation. On several occasions, he prefaced a question by apologizing for having to ask it, which, instead of coming off as sensitive or empathetic, changed the tone of the room from a professional, procedural one to one of informality and uncertainty. I answered patiently and with resolve. I had to assure him on several occasions that he could proceed, an additional act of emotional labour that I resent having had to perform.
After responding to the physician’s question regarding recent drug use, he asked me (x), “off the record” (his words) if I could describe the effects of psilocybin since what he knew of them were “only from textbooks” (again, his words). He also asked me an exactly similar string of around 20 questions that just had, which strikes me as inefficient and frankly a waste of my time.
Even before I was notified that I was no longer needed for the study, I had been dubious about committing because of the way certain things were managed. I was left waiting in rooms for extended periods of time without being told why; at one point during the probing questionnaire, someone I’d never seen came in to grab supplies from a cart, causing an interruption that was awkward to recover from; the end time of the appointment was not respected, despite my mentioning beforehand I did have to leave at the end time that had been mutually agreed on. Lastly, the blood lab was closed when I went there, which meant I would've had to schedule another visit just to complete the first session without any additional compensation offered — but I digress. These are ultimately not the issues I take with the study, though they do contribute to an overall tone deafness regarding issues of power which seem rife in this whole operation.
I am familiar with a great deal of [your institution]’s research over the past decade and have respect for it as a leading institution in the mental health field. The reason that I'm writing to you today (xi) is to express my concern for the unprofessional and careless conduct I witnessed in my very preliminary involvement in this study. I wish you and your colleagues the best with this research and hope that my experience has been anomalous in the scope of how [your institution] interfaces with its study subjects.
i / phd candidate who seems paranoid that I smell his fear
ii / ca$$$$h
iii / citing academic achievements is the same as having accidental mayonnaise on your aging chin and if the citing’s deployment as a rhetorical strategy succeeds, all the worse
iv / cowboy walks in and says “I…know a thing-‘er-two about what yer up to down here”
v / vague and insufficient but recognized terms increase appearance of credibility
vi / until I realized that talk therapy served my desire to perform more than anything else (would be nervous, feel unprepared to do my performance, would struggle to pick the motif for the day: one unique enough to seem like progress but with an intuitive, if abstract, link to previous days so as to seem part of the same season), though never admitted this to my therapist, a brilliant, sage middle aged lesbian ex-Wiccan cum Anglican minister (I just wasn’t in the mood then to endeavour another unraveling, one that would irreversibly corrupt the room)
vii / which is always disapproving
viii / curiosity disguised as care
ix / like, for example: If you could just think about the worst two-week period within that period, can you just tell me if you experienced… Loss of appetite? No. How were you sleeping? Normally. Were you so fidgety or restless that you were unable to sit still? Yes. Was it so bad that other people noticed? No, mmmm, I don’t know, actually. No. I don’t think so. Well, I wasn’t leaving the house much, so… What was your energy like? Low. Very low? Mmm, yes. During that time, how were you feeling about yourself? Mmm, unsure. About the question or about yourself? Both. Were you feeling any worthlessness or guilt? [in the tone of sure, why not] Mmmyeah. Which one? The first. Was this like, most days? Yeah, I guess so. Were you having trouble thinking or concentrating? Yes. Was it interfering with things? Yes. Were things so bad that you were thinking a lot about death or that you’d be better off dead? Mmmm, thinking about death but not feeling better off dead, not feeling suicidal. Were you thinking of hurting yourself? No. So you weren’t thinking of your own death, you were sort of just… thinking… about death? Yeah… I guess thinking about my own death and death but not about bringing myself to my own death. Okay… --Like, as a desire.
x / with a grin on his face and a muscle in his pants
xi / "With each attempt to evade the limits of institutional determination, to embrace an outside, we expand our frame and bring more of the world into it. But we never escape it.” – Andrea Fraser