Architectural Association School of Architecture (AAIS Programme); Centre for the Study of Substructured Loss (Artist Residency Programme)

Title: A pilot study using A Canopy of Thoughts (ACT) artwork and a Mind Walk research framework to understand the psychological effects of the global climate crisis.

The MFA Thesis project approaches the topic of environmental sustainability as a human rights issue and aims to highlight the impact of the global climate crisis on mental health primarily focusing on the effects of ecological grief, climate-anxiety, post-traumatic stress and dissociation. The project is grounded in scientific, theoretical and artistic research, working from the following problem question: “How to define and measure experiences of dissociation through the metaphorical relationship of protagonist and narrative utilising concept mapping techniques and sensory aspects to understand the role of embodiment in climate psychology?”










Figure 1. A Canopy of Thoughts artwork; Sykes-Smith (2015), ACT artwork concept map template; Sykes-Smith (2020).


The concept map template tool (Figure 1.) used in this study references the artwork titled A Canopy of Thoughts (ACT). ACT is an artistic metaphor that symbolises a protagonist (i.e., you, the participant) in the process of navigating their mind within the context of their life narrative.










Figure 2. ACT artwork and Mind Walk framework concept map; Sykes-Smith (2021).


Mind Walk is a research, education and social engagement framework. The Mind Walk framework in this study will be implemented through concept mapping and interview. The ACT artwork metaphor provides the foundation for personal storytelling of the protagonist (i.e. you, the participant) and their narrative (i.e. your story). The process will require the participant to access their memory and engage with their imagination.

The concept map (Figure 2.) visually demonstrates the concepts involved in the ACT artwork and the Mind Walk framework, and the relationships between these concepts, within this study.


Have you been impacted by the global climate crisis? Have you experienced a climate-based disaster directly or indirectly? Please register your interest to participate within this study via the contact form below.



    Canopy of Thoughts (Trailer)

    The film ‘Canopy of Thoughts’ presents a structured exploration of the data collected from the trial study, portrayed through an embodied performance, and overlaid with verbatim interview quotes and a symbolic narrative: “I am in crisis. We are in crisis. The Earth is in crisis. A global climate crisis. Our Canopy of Thoughts; a cognitive architecture made visual through concept mapping of factors, thoughts and feelings. Disparate aspects linked consciously and unconsciously, associations realised through asking, articulating, listening. Reaching up to understand, structuring knowledge, to achieve grounding”. The artistic metaphor acts to bridge and bind the research stages and performance, representing individual experiences within a global narrative.

    A select group of participants impacted by the Australian bush fire season of 2019-2020 were invited to participate in the trial study.