'The Universal Embrace; Considering Phi, Spirit & Society'

In essence, this creative component of a Masters of Education at Victoria University aims to simplify and complicate in slow moving imagery the emotional, physical, spiritual, and politicised lenses of two men embracing. This self-reflexive autobiographical narrative, in hindsight, details the disintegration of a relationship.

  • Richard McLean
  • Richard Mclean
  • Richard Mclean
  • Richard Mclean
    Key Cast
  • (A former partner)
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
    Animation, Experimental, Short, Student, Web / New Media
  • Genres:
    relationships, spirituality, gay, queer, education
  • Runtime:
    5 minutes 7 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    September 30, 2013
  • Production Budget:
    0 USD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director - Richard McLean
Director Statement

I have always been a practising artist, even from a young child. After feeling very directionless and surely I nearly left school after year ten. I can say education has saved my life.

I did well in year twelve and I was lucky enough to study a Bachelor of Fine Art at Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne and majored in drawing, with a minor in ceramics.

I struggled with sexuality and mental illness for many years, (I was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age twenty one), but whilst this struggle would right itself over time, I continued my creativity by designing web pages in the early nineties while I was doing a computer aided art and design course.

The Herald Sun’s (Newspaper in Melbourne Australia), art department saw my illustrations online, (back when your hard-drive was 500MB!), and they called me in to relieve me from my factory job (checking tuna cans for dints! - Indeed I have many factory jobs in my time).

I became a news graphics artist and illustrator for the 'Herald Sun', which I was thrilled about. When my contract finished, I did the same role at 'The Age' newspaper, also in Melbourne, for about five years.

I had always been making art and exhibiting though.

During the time at The Age I penned my book about living with, and recovering from schizophrenia. It was an accurate diagnosis at the time but has since been changed loosely to Bi-Polar Disorder, re-affirming my distaste and dubious opinions for psychiatry.

I started to do a lot of public speaking and advocacy about mental health recovery in many different organisations, media, schools, radio and other different places. I think there is a natural cycle to suffering adversity. First, you suffer, then if lucky, recover, then become an educator and advocate, yet then you are defined by that and your relationship to the adversity changes.
I am now studying my PhD at Victoria University, Melbourne.

Housing wise, I have always been a wanderer and have moved around twenty times until this stage in my life, in many different share houses. I am still in one now!

Some of the art I made during the time up until about age twenty-six was published in the autobiographical account of recovery, in 'Recovered, Not Cured, a journey through schizophrenia', (Allen and Unwin, 2003), which was awarded a 'Highly Commended' from the human rights and equal opportunity commission, and nominated SANE Australia's 'Book of the Year’. I am proud the book has helped so many people and has sold over 10,000 copies, even being translated into Japanese.

In 2008, after a few more moves and crises, I published a collection of these works in the book 'Strange Currencies of Ego and Soul'. As a spiritualist, soul is heaven, ego reflects the darker side of human nature, for it's corruptible condition, I think the book reflects both these themes in retrospect. A book of mistakes and triumphs. (Not suitable for minors).

In that time, I donated works to The Dax Collection, and they made a short educational DVD utilised for year eleven and twelve students about my life and art, educating them about mental illness through the vehicle and expression of my art. Yet as an organisation that sees art through the lens of trauma, as I evolved I did not want to be stigmatised or pathologised anymore…I asked for my works back and they refused. It has not been the first time I was taken advantage of in the art world.

I spoke publicly for many years on the role of art and recovery from, and coping with 'schizophrenia', doing countless radio interviews and public lectures. It's taken me to such diverse places as Australian Parliament in Canberra, to Dubbo in outback New South Wales, and McGill University at The School of Religious and Philosophy studies, in Montreal, Canada, where I also exhibited.

I have also spoken extensively with The Mental Health Research Institute (MHRI) on my experience of art making and life experiences with high school students. In 2009 I lectured to national body of the Victorian Curriculum Assessment Team, (VCAT), in which I used my life experiences, writing, subjective experience growing up and art, to help decide and direct what is appropriate for school curriculum in Australian High Schools.

Talking about the images and my life as I guess a visual diarist was always a good starting point and insight to my life of the time, which people were interested in, and other sufferers and people in general could relate to.

After years of advocacy though, I did not want to repeat the same story of my past, it was becoming cumbersome, so I returned to study and completed my Masters of Education by Research at Victoria University. This is where the creative project of ‘The Universal Embrace; Considering Phi, Spirit & Society’ was born. You can see that online project at the following website: www.theuniversalembrace.com

After I completed that I was lucky enough to receive a scholarship to study my PhD doctoral studies at Victoria University, which I am very grateful for.

Because I had such a hard time growing up, the auto ethnographical and autobiographical nature of my life led me to want to be that voice that validates young peoples concerns in my doctoral studies.

My PhD focus on the ethical considerations of year eleven students about inheriting a world of artificial intelligence and super intelligence that may enable trans humanism.

I am writing a factual novel to the present day about technology and AI and then utilising 'fiction as research' to create utopian and dystopian and other visions of the future - what the students imagine life to be like within a couple of generations.

'What does it mean to be human now and in the near future?' That's the very short synopsis.

I'd just like to add however that I hope all the psychiatrists who remarked I have overarching grandiose ideas of what I am able to achieve to go through all the creativity I’ve done in my life!

I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to be so prolific in my art making over my life, and grateful for people who support me and buy my art. I'm happy to share it with the world.

Blessings, Richard McLean, 2017.