Throughout our life, we constantly redefine ‘normal.’ While we yearn for previous definitions of the word, building a new normal is what we must do. The next definition is more important than the last one. Rest assured, you and your body will find the new normal soon.

This was a note written from a man to his wife as she struggled to find confidence with her new life and body after a battle with breast cancer. The beautiful story can be found here.

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THERE ARE A LOT OF UPLIFTING, BELIEVE-IN-YOURSELF TYPE ANTHEMS out there. I actually find the popular ones quite cheesy (with the exception of REM’s classic Everybody Hurts), but I listen to them anyway and usually cry. All the heaps of Pink and Christiana Aguilera powerhouse beltings of beauty and perfection, they all muddle and start to feel insincere; not to say the message isn’t important, they present a similar immediacy that can a lot of people can relate to. The cynic is me thinks that pop artists have a quota of song genres to fill and this is one of them. I think it’s very easy to hone into a person’s vulnerability to sell records. Yes, I know that sounds terrible.

That being said, in an attempt to be less than 10 years behind in music, I caught up with the world and listened to some Jessie J. (initially though because that’s my sister’s name and last initial). Her contribution to this conversation is, Who You Are and I was prepared to have a listen and forget it. For whatever reason, I’ve replayed it several times, album and acoustic version. Maybe it’s the music video, the isolation and eventual onslaught of storminess in a single room. Or it could be the raw quality of her voice sans the overblown auto-tune trend. Maybe I am biased because I was watching The Voice UK  and Jessie J. is one of the judges who I have come to respect.

 

I was pleased to see she wrote the song for herself during a time when she was struggling to maintain her sense of identity in the music industry. Her lyrics feel genuine and made quite an impact on my own situation; specifically, mid-chorus she reassures the listener,

It’s okay not to be okay

This is something I want to tell myself, as well as try to represent in my work. Instead feeling like you need to be fixed, learning to accept the darkness as a way to redefine normal. How can we be given permission to be ill?

THE FOLLOWING ARE ANOTHER SERIES OF SCREENS. Similar to the last series, this screen uses emotionally-driven words (this time, emotions directly tied to depression) to prompt different interactions with the given material, as determined by the participant. My participant was given a very long strip of fabric  and again, none of her actions were premeditated. These were the results of this interaction.

subjectscarf

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comfort

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THE FOLLOWING ARE A SERIES OF SCREENS to evaluate the interactions of ceramic (for the purposes of a quick trial, I used air-dry clay) and emotion. After my participant chose the clay prop for each study, she would be randomly assigned an emotional prompt. None of her actions were premeditated, they were interactions of that moment. It was interesting to see which actions I anticipated and others which surprised me.  She said this activity was very cathartic and an overall fun experience.

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More Behind the Jump

MIANNE DE VRIES • CURIOUS VASE

You don’t know what to expect. Are you making the right choice? If you destroy the vase to find out what’s in it, there is no turning back. Don’t you dare to take this risk, then you will always stay curious …

While smashing some prototypes earlier today, it made me recall this project. Mianne De Vries’ graduation project for the Art Academy of Utrecht consists of a vase with several layers of vases beneath. The user is given the opportunity to smash the exterior shell to discover something new, and entices further investigation.

The following video is for your destructive pleasure.

MY COMMITMENT TO MATERIALS is not concrete, as of yet. However, I have set my parameters- I want to make sure there is a juxtaposition of materials which fully represents the spectrum of emotional tactility. Conflict between materials can translate the contradictory nature of depression, that it can be hard and soft at the same time. I am leaning towards ceramic, fabrics and wools, and possibly wood because their physical qualities can change over time (eg. wood can soften or break).

JESS FINK • KID WITH EXPERIENCE

I’m not sure how I stumbled upon this comic, it just fell into my lap at a much needed time (click the picture for full comic). What resonated with me was that the path of recovery isn’t linear. Each trip spent digging is different; some expeditions become cavernous and infinite, while others barely break the surface. Despite the dirt-smeared cheeks and soil-caked fingernails, you eventually come out for air. Maybe you’ll start digging again, but it’s those glimpses of “I can” that truly matter.

I’ve been familiar with Jess Fink’s spectrum of work for quite some time and I always admired her inky styles. She’s a girl who knows how to make fun of herself and I can appreciate that. Her ability to share her personal struggle among the cat jokes and fictional robotic sexscapades (NSFW) is admirable. Even though there are 121 million people internationally who suffer from depression, finding and connecting with successful individuals who have treated their condition is inspiring.

THE FIRST DAY OF CLASS, all 4th year students were asked to put together 10 slides at 10 seconds each to introduce their proposed problem space for their graduation projects and speak about what kind of designer they are and want to be. Even out of school I spent many months pondering this, but putting it on paper is another task entirely. In time, I was able to deconstruct a long list to the most fundamental properties of my design philosophy (which may change and probably will be adjusted):

SIMPLICITY- Accomplished design is not convoluted. It’s honest and bare-bones. As Dieter Rams says, “less, but better”.

COMPASSION- Every designer wants to change the world, whether on a macro or micro level. We believe in humanity and want to make life better for each other. Compassion is a driving force to make that change.

The following themes I take under consideration during the development phase of any project. All three are reoccurring subjects during the process of this graduation project:

NARRATIVE- Stories and memories bond us to things, establishing a depth of connection which on can feel we can feel familiarity and comfort towards. Something as simple as a cracked bowl can have specific meaning to someone and not another, and that’s kind of magical.

CURIOSITY- Curiosity, in the sense of playfulness and whimsy, is a very inviting quality. It can enrich an object by making the subject more accessible and the experience more surprising or memorable.

HUMAN CONDITION- There is an interesting relationship between the user and an object to be explored. Does one define the other? Can an object make you more human? Or less?

DOODLING UP ANOTHER 101 SKETCHES was hardly as daunting as the first two times. Developmentally speaking, i think my drawings this time around were much better. I had more of a focus for this round: I made a list of bad advice and tried to give it a physical form, taking it into the most literal sense possible. Breaking up approximately 10 sketches per theme made the ideas more fluid and I had less time to dwell. Surprisingly, using a different coloured marker for each theme supplied me with a notion of fresh page as I sketched on a single scroll of paper. The bliss of permanent markers is that the ideas flood out freely without second thought. There is less constraint and more confidence with each stroke. And I do think the drawings became sillier.

I reassure you that this is a very good thing.

THE FRAGMENTED TIME SPENT WITH MY MAJOR DEPRESSION are my “Lost Days”. A wisp. An exhale. It’s as if the darkness inside me escapes only to mask a fog over my eyes and suddenly a day becomes a week. I have lost a lot of things during this whole ordeal. This entire project fell into hiatus once again and coming back to it was challenge; not because I didn’t believe in the cause, but because I couldn’t believe in myself. I was so downtrodden by my past attempts, slips and falls (in every aspect, not just school) that I had finally lost myself.

In Stanford University’s Robert Sapolsky’s lecture about depression, he states that “depression is the worst disease you can get”.  When I had listened to this a year ago, I had my doubts. Having watched it again more recently, I wholeheartedly agree. Depression is destruction; but, In destruction is creation.

Ugly and muddled in memory as these days have been, I strongly believe that it was never time wasted. Each crippling blow becomes a lesson and I am perpetually learning. For those good days, the fleeting moments that could be considered simple accomplishments reminded me that I am more than my “Lost Days”, more than my illness. Though my depression constantly lies to me, I know its face and I know it will get better.

My drive to see this project to completion could not meet a greater immediacy. To feel equally empowered and vulnerable I have embraced to be a beautiful thing. Third time’s a charm. This is my comeback.

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