Creative project challenges the ice addict stereotype

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Paul. Photo: Hilary-Wardhaugh

WRITER Ginger Gorman, photographers Hilary Wardhaugh and Martin Ollman, sculptor Tom Buckland, and printmaker Jess Higgins have turned the old idiom “skating on thin ice” into stark reality in a documentary project that comes to fruition tonight (November 7).

Ann. Photo: Martin Ollman

“On Thin Ice”, to be unveiled at Tuggeranong Arts Centre, tells the stories of six Canberrans who have been living with or recovering from addiction to crystal methamphetamine (ice).

“Fallen”, 2019, by Jess Higgins, detail, woodblock frottage.

Each of the five artists has worked closely with participants to create work that reflects the experience of addiction, the challenges they faced and their hopes for the future in a project the arts centre’s CEO, Rauny Worm, hopes will go well beyond and stereotypes, snap judgments and prejudices and headlines like “meth crisis” and “ice epidemic”.

Ms Worm said the idea grew out of conversations during public programs for last year’s exhibition of art by executed drug smuggler Myuran Sukumaran, “Another Day in Paradise”. It became clear there was a need to tell the real stories of addiction and recovery, she said.

Writer Ginger Gorman. Photo: Hilary Wardhaugh

Journalist and author of the bestselling nonfiction work “Troll Hunting”, Ginger Gorman, who interviewed the participants, says she’s noticed that the portrayal of drug addiction in the media and in advertising is stigmatised, so that users of crystal methamphetamine are always shown to be selfish and violent.

But, she reports, Paul, one of the participants in the project told her: “You don’t wake up one day and decide to become a drug addict.”

Addiction, she says, is a disease, “and these folk are fighting with all their hearts to get better”.

Ms Gorman’s hope is that after looking at artworks in the multi-media exhibition and listening to the stories, presented in audio form, members of the public will consider how they treat people with addiction and how they can make society fairer.

“On Thin Ice,” opens this evening with a booked-out panel discussion and continues at Tuggeranong Arts Centre, 10am-4pm, Monday to Friday, until November 30. All welcome.





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Helen Musa
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