Mental Transformation

I’ve tried a couple different approaches to this project, and have not been satisfied with any of the results so apologies for the lack of progress photos. It took a while for me to narrow down on what exactly I wanted to achieve with this.

Doing a project about something that has made me feel incredibly uncomfortable for a long time is a difficult task. I’ve never spent much time talking about my anxiety or any of the OCD rituals that went along with it, never mind attempting to do a presentation in front of a class, but it’s a challenge I feel like I need to undertake. In my proposal, I gave a very broad description of what I would like to do, but I think I’ve finally narrowed it down to a specific idea.

Intrusive thoughts can be very common in people of all ages, and are not necessarily connected with OCD or anxiety, however when they are, they tend to be persistent and incredibly hard to overcome or block out. These thoughts can vary in nature from violent, sexual, fearful, and religious, among others. For many people suffering from this, there can frequently be a fear of impeding doom or danger, which can linger for long periods of time. The doom can involve the person themselves, close loved ones, and even strangers you see on the streets. The improbability and seemingly ridiculous circumstances which manifest themselves within the mind, can still be taken very seriously and have the ability to cause a great amount of anxiety and fear. From this anxiety, OCD rituals are created by the afflicted in order to overcome and attain a sense of relief. The trouble with that is that for the most part, attempting to block out these thoughts, only works to strengthen them in what becomes a vicious cycle. One way to moving past them is attempting to face that fear or thought without reaction, which is often referred to as exposure therapy. The goal of this is to quite literarily face your fear and push through it while recognizing that there is no need to react and in the end, no need to feel any fear. While this works for some, personally I found that for me to overcome the thought and ritual associated with it, it is important to focus your mind and concentration on another outlet. Yoga, meditation, or art are some examples of the productive and self-strengthening activities. Unfortunately, there is a darker and sometimes, easier escape to fall into which could include the use of substances in order to numb the mind and forget.  

I want to explore the idea of escaping a ritual or obsession by finding a separate ritual to escape to. I would like to focus on both the positive and the negative paths which this road could take, and to create a body of work which focuses on the internal struggle of control and chaos within the mind of someone who deals with these issues on a day to day basis. 

Seeing as how I don’t believe our classroom is an ideal space in which to show videos, given my last presentation, I wanted to go back to a medium that I’m a little more comfortable with. Photography. The end result will probably be a series, although I haven’t ruled out a possibility of a large single tableau photograph. I had trouble finding photographers who deal directly with the issues I’m talking about, so if anyone knows any, please let me know.

I will have some progress shots later on in the week.

Any questions or comments? 

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2 Responses to Mental Transformation

  1. GBoyd says:

    I am very interested in this path you are taking! Personally I feel so overwhelmed when people talk about obsession, OCD and anxiety. I don’t feel that I “suffer” from these feelings very often thus I am curious.
    I know your video wasn’t shown to the best of its potential in our crit and because of limited resources that the school is baring us to I feel photography will be easily stronger to display.
    Because of the repetitive nature linked to such things as OCD and similar displays of feelings I think having a series of photographs would carry the essence of the theme more.
    Grace B.

  2. HI Serge,
    This is a great starting point for a project, and very brave of you.
    Exercise is becoming more and more commonly suggested for all sorts of mental illnesses. Besides the ritual framework that you point out as a substitute for an unhealthy ritual or behaviour, there’s increasing evidence of exercise’s positive impact on our brains because of the body’s chemical response.

    Some standard advice I give to artists heading down the path of art that addresses one’s afflictions is that the first job of that art is often to announce that its maker has an illness. The second is to describe the illness and the maker’s attempts at healing the illness. The third is often to make the audience aware of how many and what sort (usually lots of people, and very regular people) suffer in the same way as the artist. It usually doesn’t get to the point of communicating what the malady is like for someone suffering it. (I wonder how possible that is?)

    I think you are on the right path when you say, “create a body of work which focuses on the internal struggle of control and chaos within the mind of someone…”

    Can you describe what these pictures might be like? Are they illustrative of an activity or place, or are they to be more evocative of a mental state?

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